5 March 2013

Mauritania: Govt Mulls Mali Deployment

Nouakchott — Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz announced his country could take on a more active role in the war in northern Mali.

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz said Monday (March 4th) in Nouakchott that the country was ready to join a UN force in Mali.

"If the situation changes... there will be nothing preventing Mauritania, as a UN member, from sending troops to the north (of Mali) or in the country's western regions to provide stability and security," Ould Abdel Aziz said at a joint press conference with his visiting Niger counterpart Mahamadou Issoufou.

Both Niger and Mauritania share the same views on the anti-terror fight and rule out negotiations with terrorists, Ould Abdel Aziz added.

"We will take on this responsibility as soon as possible," he stated.

The war on terror in northern Mali is being waged by allied forces from France, Mali, members of the Economic Organisation of West African States (ECOWAS) and other African states.

According to AFP, several members of the regional bloc ECOWAS have volunteered hundreds of troops to take part in a military force to support the embattled transitional government in Bamako.

But few foreign troops have been actively involved alongside France on the frontlines of the nearly two-month-old operation with the exception of Chad, whose seasoned desert fighters have spearheaded the hunt for militants.

Ould Abdel Aziz justified his country's reluctance to participate in the war in northern Mali, by saying, "Mauritania did not participate because it is not a member of ECOWAS, while the matter concerned member states from this group."

The president reiterated Mauritania's commitment to offering assistance to French and Malian forces. "Mauritania, which is not ready to engage in a war on those groups, is on the other hand playing a vital role in preventing terrorists from infiltrating and resorting to its territory, and encircling them in the north of Mali in order to enable Malian units to intervene and finish them off in their dens, and I think that is a very important role." The President noted.

The demands of the Touareg in northern Mali and their relations with the state of Mali were not absent from the joint press conference held by the two presidents.

"The position of Mauritania with regard to the crisis in Mali takes into account the problem of terrorism that has been present in northern Mali since 2001 due to its loose handling by the central government, for exactly twelve years now," Ould Abdel Aziz said. "Yet there are legitimate demands posed by the population of northern Mali that are related to essential infrastructure, health, water, electricity and education, and these are legitimate demands."

"However," he stated, "there are other demands that are unacceptable because they affect the unity of the state of Mali and we were and will remain against them and refuse to listen to them."

The Mauritanian president added, "still we wish that the parties to the conflict in Mali would find solutions to those problems by fairly sharing the limited wealth among the population."

Political analyst Hussein Ould Medo commented on Mauritania's new decision to take on a more active role in fighting terrorism in northern Mali, "this doesn't mean that Mauritania insists on a rapid intervention in the on-going war against terrorists, but should be understood as meaning that Mauritania could intervene in the event of the deployment of peacekeepers under the auspices of the United Nations only."

"The option of a Mauritanian military intervention in the on-going war has not and will never be met with a consensus within the internal political class. Therefore the regime cannot make such a step unless it provides justifications that would satisfy all Mauritanians," he added.

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