AFTER 160 YEARS of interdependence and with two million Algerians in its population, France is inextricably involved in Algeria's civil war. That is one point that terrorists were making in planting a bomb that killed five and wounded 29 on a commuter train in Paris yesterday.
The eighth bomb attack in France since July 25 carried a second message, that the Sept. 29 gendarme slaying of a suspected terrorist near Lyons did not end the campaign or squelch the shadowy Armed Islamic Group (AIG).
However disturbing to the French, these token outrages pale beside the carnage in Algeria, where journalists, Westernized women, secular thinkers, French, foreigners and just about anyone straying into the line of fire is callously murdered in the name of overthrowing the secular, socialist, army-maintained, French-supported government.
Clearly the terrorists are building to a climax in both countries coinciding with the Nov. 16 election in Algeria, which is boycotted by the opposition Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), and which the army-backed President Liamine Zeroual will win.
French President Jacques Chirac is too connected to the Algerian regime to keep aloof, so he has done the opposite. He will see President Zeroual in New York, where both will be attending the United Nations. This enrages Algerian oppositionists who see it conferring legitimacy on an unfree election. But Mr. Chirac said he will use the meeting to press Mr. Zeroual and the army, which suppressed the 1992 election as the FIS was winning it, for real democracy.
The French are aware that the suppression of the FIS made it more extreme and gave birth to the AIG. At first, Algerian terrorists used France as sanctuary but later for operations. The French should make every effort to halt terror in France, without panic or persecution. But they also know -- and Mr. Chirac to his credit is saying -- that France will have a problem as long as
Algeria suppresses the will of its own people.