6 Mar 2012

Algeria custody row father angered at NZ involvement

10:48 pm on 6 March 2012

The father at the centre of an international custody battle being played out in Algeria has accused the New Zealand Government of trying to kidnap his children.

New Zealand woman Mihi Puriri says the father of her three children, Mohamed Azzaoui, took the family's passports on their arrival in Algeria last year.

Mr Azzaoui still has the children: daughters Iman, aged 5, and Assiya, 2, and son Zakaria, who is almost 1.

The BBC's correspondent in Algeria, Chloe Arnold, has been in contact with both parents.

"Mohamed was very belligerent ... when I spoke to him on the telephone and said this had absolutely nothing to do with anyone but him and his wife," Ms Arnold told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Tuesday.

Ms Arnold said Mr Azzaoui did not accept the credentials of the New Zealand consul from Cairo, Barbara Welton, who visited.

He told Ms Arnold the person was simply a New Zealander who had stolen the business card of the consul and had come to his home to try to steal the children.

Ms Arnold said the Algerian government has not become formally involved.

"It has turned into a really difficult battle for these three very small children and it's an extremely sad case," she said.

On Monday, Ms Puriri said she and New Zealand consul staff tried to get the children back with the help of about 10 gendarmes, but their party was blocked by police and Mr Azzaoui's family.