Khartoum - Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has expressed his country's willingness to help achieve national reconciliation in Sudan and called on government and opposition to sit down to negotiations for the sake of the country's unity.

Bouteflika, who arrived on a three-day state visit on Sunday, made the offer in a speech delivered at a celebration he attended with Sudanese President General Omar al-Beshir to mark the 45th anniversary of Sudan's independence.

He said that he would "join hands with President al-Beshir for solving all issues that need contribution and coordination with efforts exerted by other parties for achieving national reconciliation in Sudan".

Bouteflika called on all Sudanese opposition groups and the government to "sit down for negotiations putting a side their differences for the sake of the interests of the country and the people."

The Algerian president announced his country's "willingness for cooperation with the Sudanese government in all fields without any conditions," and added that the Algerian people are "happy at the disappearance of the dark clouds that shrouded the relations between the two countries in the past".

Meanwhile the Sudanese press quoted Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelaziz Balkhadim as saying that his country is ready to play any role to end the conflict in Sudan provided that both the government and the opposition accept that role.

He ruled out the existence of any Algerian initiative for solving the conflict in Sudan but said "there are efforts by President Bouteflika to bring viewpoints closer, making use of his relations with the government and the opposition".

The largest country in Africa has been wracked for 17 years by a civil war pitting the northern Muslim Arab government against the non-Muslim black south.

Beshir is also opposed by an alliance of northern groups, which boycotted elections last week in which the president and his party were declared returned by a landslide.

Bouteflika arrived in Khartoum on Sunday on the first visit to Sudan by an Algerian head of state for more than 30 years.

He told reporters at Khartoum airport that relations between the two countries had begun to develop since Beshir visited Algiers in March.

Relations between Khartoum and Algiers were strained over most of the last decade when Sudan was regarded as sympathising with the violent Islamic movement fighting the Algerian government. - Sapa-AFP