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World Bank Resumes Assistance to Mauritania


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The World Bank is resuming assistance to Mauritania that was cut following a coup last year. The election of a former general to head a civilian government has brought a number of international organizations back to Mauritania.

The World Bank is freeing up 14 of the $16 million frozen last year after General Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz toppled the nation's first freely-elected leader.

Mr. Aziz won election as a civilian candidate three months ago, ending many of the sanctions against his previous military government.

The World Bank's Madani Tall says the funds will help improve infrastructure.

Tall says President Aziz told him economic governance is a priority of the new government, along with fighting corruption and the misuse of public funds. He says the Aziz administration appears committed to building a public private partnership to improve infrastructure. Tall says the World Bank respects the government's economic team as both competent and rigorous.

President Aziz ran a populist campaign, winning more than half of July's vote in the first round as a self-proclaimed "Candidate of the Poor" promising to improve health care while lowering food and fuel prices.

Sidi Ahmed Ould Tah is Mauritania's minister of economic affairs.

Tah says the Aziz administration is pleased by the resumption of assistance and hopes the World Bank will help the Mauritanian government develop the country. Tah says the World Bank's return shows that it is determined and serious about helping the new programs of President Aziz.

The World Bank's Madani Tall believes the resumption of development assistance will accelerate in the coming weeks and months.

Tall says he hopes future agreements will be signed soon to meet the pressing needs of the Mauritanian people. He says the World Bank sees the Aziz administration is highly engaged in going forward with reforms that include the fight against corruption. Tall says those reforms will help Mauritania establish a world-class business environment while providing essential social services.

The International Monetary Fund is negotiating a new assistance program with Mauritania, saying it shares the poverty-fighting goals of President Aziz.

The European Union is considering expanding its existing rural water projects.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is resuming full cooperation with Mauritania. NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue security forum is aimed at improving regional security by linking the group's 28 members with non-NATO countries Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and Mauritania.

An alliance statement said NATO made the decision "following the political process opened in the country by the presidential elections."

The Aziz election has also revived French efforts to improve security cooperation.

Michel Vandporter, the French ambassador to Mauritania, says the Sarkozy administration is focused on developing a regional approach to the fight against terrorism that includes Mauritania, Niger, and Mali. He says these three countries are facing the same situation which can cause regional instability including terrorism, drug trafficking, and arms smuggling.

Fighting terrorism is another big priority that President Aziz has set for his new administration.

A suicide bomber slightly injured three people outside the French Embassy days after he was inaugurated.

An American man working in Nouakchott was shot dead in June by a gunman who Mauritanian security officials say belongs to an al-Qaida affiliated group. Three suspected members of the same group are in jail awaiting trial for the December 2007 killing of four French tourists.


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