The Washington Post
Date: Jun 9, 2003
Start Page: A.16
Text Word Count: 405
Mauritania’s pro-Western leader battled an apparent coup attempt today, as small-arms and tank fire erupted near the presidential palace in the Arab-dominated West African nation. The fighting followed a government crackdown on Islamic activists that started with the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Mauritania launched its crackdown initially to stem Islamic shows of support for Iraq. Last month, dozens of Islamic leaders were arrested for allegedly using mosques to recruit young men as fighters.
The country’s Arab-led government has tried to balance the interests of a strongly Islamic nation with a Westward-looking foreign policy. After a bitter falling-out with former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein,
Maaouiya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya] traded an alliance with Iraq for improved relations with Israel. Mauritania is one of only three Arab nations that has diplomatic relations with Israel.
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