Monday, 9 June 2003

Nouakchott (Fide Service) - The situation is still confused in Nouakchott, capital of Mauritania after an unsuccessful coup to oust President Maaouiya Ould Taya. Fighting continues between special forces faithful to the President and rebels who attempted to take power by force on Sunday 8 June.
Army troops loyal to Taya resisted the first attack on the President’s residence but the rebels will not give up and there are reports of fighting in various parts of the city.
It is still difficult to identify the coup leaders, but some observers say Taya’s opening to Israel could be one of the reasons for the coup. The country, 99% Muslim, is one of only three states in the Arab League to hold full diplomatic relations with Israel, (established in 1999) and the population appears to be largely opposed to these ties. Since 1999 Tel Aviv has begun discreet collaboration with Nouakchott in farming and security.
Until 1991 Mauritania openly supported Iraq led by Saddam Hussein, to the point that during the first Gulf War, 1991, the country was suspected of hiding Iraq’s stores of non-conventional weapons. The pro-Israel turn taken by President Taya did not please Muslim extremists who may have decided to take power.
Recently 32 Muslim fundamentalists were arrested on charges of endangering national security.
Mauritania has a population of about 2.5 million. Its main sources of income are iron mining and fishing. Oil deposits, recently discovered of the Atlantic Ocean coast, await exploitation. LM (Fides Service 9/6/2003 EM lines 25 Words: 286)