Mauritania celebrates 50 years of independence
Mauritania celebrated half a century of independence from France Sunday in a ceremony attended by opposition leaders as President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz attempted to heal frosty political ties.
Sunday's celebrations were subdued and included a flag-raising ceremony in the presence of the main opposition leaders, who have rejected Aziz' presidency since the former military leader was elected president in July 2009.
In a sign of easing tensions, Aziz reached out to the opposition in a speech on Saturday night.
"We express our full readiness to engage in a frank dialogue with the opposition parties, whom we invite to participate in the work of nation building in the best interests of the nation," said Aziz.
The president -- a former army chief who staged a coup in 2008 -- promised that the state would "continue to ensure the consolidation of democracy, which remains the best means of preserving peace and security and to guarantee progress and prosperity to our people."
Aziz lamented the fact that development was "weak" in his country, despite being rich in natural resources such as iron ore, gold, fish and recently, oil.
He said this was due to "internal and external factors, mainly the lack of a clear political and economic vision ... the phenomenon of mismanagement and poor management" against which he has declared war.
The president also addressed the issue of security in the light of attacks by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, saying his country had "purchased large quantities of weapons, more vehicles and aircraft to enhance our operational capacity."
"Our armed forces remain constantly ready to defend the sovereignty and integrity of our territory and ensure the safety of all our citizens and nationals of friendly countries," he said.
Festivites were planned throughout the day and the anniversary celebrations have also been marked by a series of inaugurations including a new water supply in Nouakchott and a new iron-ore mine in the north of the country.
© 2010 AFP