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Burkina Faso Denies Any Role in Mauritania Coup Plot  - 2004-08-27

Authorities in Burkina Faso are denying they helped prepare an alleged coup plot in Mauritania. The accusation was made late Thursday by the police chief in Mauritania's capital, Nouakchott.

Burkina Faso's security minister, Djibril Bassolet, hastily convened a news conference in Ouagadougou on Friday to deny at length accusations made by Mauritania.

Mr. Bassolet said Burkina's security services will do everything to help reinforce peace and stability in Mauritania. He says that instead of making accusations, Mauritania should consolidate this cooperation.

Mr. Bassolet said Burkina Faso earlier this year had detained three suspected Mauritanian coup plotters who were traveling inside the country with Malian papers and had handed them over to authorities in Mali.

He also said that just because the coup plotters were believed to be in Burkina Faso does not mean the government is behind them.

Those accusations were made Thursday on state radio by Mauritania's police chief, Colonel Sidi Ould Riha.

Colonel Ould Riha alleged that two renegade commando units made up of Mauritanians intended to enter Mauritania traveling from Burkina Faso and Libya earlier this month. Neither of the two countries actually borders Mauritania.

Mauritania's government has said the alleged coup plotters planned to seize power while President Maaouiya Ould Taya was in France for World War Two ceremonies.

Between 20 and 30 members of the army were arrested. They were also linked to coup attempts carried out last year, but their leaders are believed to be at large somewhere in West Africa.

President Taya himself took power in a coup in 1984 and has been elected three times in ballots described by observers as seriously flawed. The instability comes amid expectations Mauritania will soon start developing offshore oil finds.