NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania – France intends to reimburse Mauritania for financial losses from last month’s cancellation of the Dakar Rally, which was called off because of the possibility of terrorism.
France Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner made the promise Friday, adding his country would increase its cooperation with Mauritania on security.
“It’s true that we have damaged the image of Mauritania as well as its tourism economy, but we will ask businessmen and French investors to return to Mauritania,” Kouchner said.
The French organizers of the 5,760-mile race canceled the 30-year-old rally after back-to-back terror attacks in Mauritania, including the slaying of four French tourists. Although the race crosses several African countries, the cancellation was especially harmful to Mauritania whose remote, dune-enveloped hamlets rely on the influx of tourists that come with the cars and motorcycles.
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French tour groups immediately began canceling trips to Mauritania after the Christmas Eve killing of the tourists, an act the government blamed on an al-Qaida linked terror network.
Mauritania is a relatively stable Islamic country and one of the only Arab League states that recognizes Israel. In the past month the country has faced an attack on one of its army bases as well as on the Israeli Embassy in Nouakchott.
The attacks on the base and on the embassy were claimed by Al-Qaida in North Africa, an Algerian-based terror cell. No group has claimed responsibility for the killing of the French tourists, but Mauritanian authorities have blamed the same terror cell.