The current tour of the french president, Nicolas Sarkozy, in North Africa, during which he visited Algeria and Tunisia, is an affront to Morocco. Former french Presidents had indeed used to start their tours in North Africa with a visit to the Rabat as a sign of confirmation of "special" relations between Morocco and France.

Sarkozy has chosen to begin his tour by visiting Algeria, despite strained relations between the two sides, while Morocco would be the 3rd and last stage of the tour. But Rabat has suddenly announced last week the cancellation of Sarkozy's visit under the pretext of the agenda of the Moroccan monarch, King Mohammed VI.

According to observers, the annulment by Rabat of Sarkozy's visit was a sign of Morroco's dissatisfaction against Sarkozy who began his tour which aims at strengthening relations between France and North African countries, a region of high importance for the security of Europe in the field of energy, by visiting Algeria, the regional competitor of Rabat and the country whose weight is becoming more and more important in the field of energy, especially natural gas.

Analysts point out that the order of the stages of the tour was not a protocol option, but it reflects a fundamental change in alliances of France in the region, given the results of talks between Sarkozy and his algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika, which focused on the issue of gas, as a prelude to conclude a strategic agreement which would be signed by next autumn.

And observers note that after the refusal of France to apologize to Algeria for the colonial era, this agreement is related to the case of the Moroccan Sahara.

In this context, Qader Abdel Rahim, an expert in the Arab Maghreb affairs at the Institute for International and Strategic Relations in Paris, says that from the french interests point of view, Sarkozy believes that Algeria is more important at medium-term. "Sarkizy's economic talks in Algeria will not have a great success, unless he demonstrates his willingness to change French policy towards the Moroccan Sahara issue", he adds.

Former Algerian Prime Minister, Redha Malek, shares this idea and says that the success of the Sarkozy's visit to Algeria depend on his attitude towards the issue of the Moroccan Sahara.

For observers, Sarkozy came to Arab Maghreb to conclude an "Historical" agreement between the Algerian oil and energy compagny "Sonatrach" and the french company "Gaz de France". The agreement, which would be signed in November, aims to ensure the supply of natural gas in France at long-term.

This analysis is reinforced by the statements made Tuesday to radio "France Inter" by the French Minister of Economy, Christine Lagarde, about the future of the development of "Gaz de France", belonging to the State, and the process of the merger of the company in the french private group of energy "Suez". In those statements Ms. Lagarde said that the Government has not yet decided on the merger of the two compagnies and all options remain open.

For his part, in statements to the Algerian daily "al-Watan" and "al-Akhbar", Sarkozy has expressed the hope to see a deal taking place between "Gaz de France" and "Total" on the one hand and "Sonatrach" on the other.

Sarkozy said that France needed to ensure gas supply in the future, confirming that a deal between these companies would helpAlgeria, at the same time, to freely enter to the french market and therefore european market.

In same time, the spokesman of the Elysee, David Matignon, said that economic issue was the center of Sarkozy-Bouteflika talks.

Although the Algerian president has insisted on an apology for crimes committed by France against Algerians during the colonial era as a step to sign "the Treaty of Friendship" between the two countries, pended since the visit of Former French president Jacques Chirac in March 2003 in Algiers, Sarkozy also insisted on the refusal to submit such excuses.

Sarkozy said he is not responsible for the mistakes of the past, while analysts believe that Sarkozy has implicitly excused by the visit itself, which coincides with celebrations of the anniversary of independence of Algeria.

On the other hand, it seems that the Algerian president has waived the requirement of apology after receiving from Sarkozy signs on changing the priorities of Paris in North Africa. According to these signs, Algeria could occupy the place of "privileged partner" of France in the region.

In this context, observers note the speech given by Bouteflika on July 5th on the occasion of Independence Day. In his speech, Algerian President has denounced colonialism, however, he did not ask for apology from the colonizer.

For his part, Nicolas Sarkozy has decided to close the "friendship treaty" file which is binding on behalf of his predecessor. He proposed a new vision of relations between Paris and Algiers "based on achievements and projects, instead of texts and treaties", as he stated after his talks with Bouteflika.

According to analysts, as Paris refuses to give concessions in terms of history, it would inevitably do that in terms of geography, which means its attitude towards the issue of the Moroccan Sahara.

France, led by Chirac, presented a calm but "cutting edge" support to the Moroccan proposal to grant autonomy to the Moroccan Sahara, whose population amounts to 260 thousand people, under the Moroccan sovereignty.

This french support has angered "the Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Oro" (Polisario), which seeks to declare the independence of the Moroccan Sahara from Rabat and supported by Algeria. The secretary general of Polisario, Mohamed Abdelaziz, criticized France in April this year for what he called "the attitude supporting Morocco" in the Moroccan Sahara conflict. He said that "France abandons international justice and provides unlimited support to the Moroccan colonial adventure in the Sahara".

However, after the election of Sarkozy last May, the Polisario's Secretary General expressed the hope to see France show "greater neutrality" in the Moroccan Sahara issue during the reign of Sarkozy. "I hope that Paris will adopt a constructive spirit in its attitude contrary to the era of Chirac", he added.

It is clear that Rabat had felt the change in trends of Paris, which has aroused the discontent of Morocco. According to the observer such a change will have inevitable repercussions on the attitude of France about the Moroccan Sahara. If France is committed to "neutrality", Moroccans will face alone the United Nations, whose new Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, rather adopt the vision of Algiers and the Polisario.

After that the United States were closer to the attitude of Algeria in this conflict, while France was closer to the Moroccan vision, it is likely that Washington and Paris would adopt similar policies regarding the conflict on the Moroccan Sahara, which would weaken the international position of Rabat.

And observers say that Sarkozy wants to change the method of French policy in Africa. "He sees that this policy, in the era of Chirac, was based on personal relations".

According to observers, this change, especially in France's policy regarding North Africa, is a reflection of the depth evaluation of the previous phase where French influence in the region fell for USA, Asia and even Russia, notably in Algeria, the largest economic power in North Africa, where the Americans hold the top spot in foreign investment, particularly in the energy sector, although France remains the largest trading partner of Algiers.

Despite all these clues, The french President always tries to maintain close relations with Morocco. He said he had no disagreements with Rabat. "Cherifian King Mohammed VI wants the visit of french President to be a "state visit" and not just a stage in a tour", he says.