No foreign military base in Mauritania: President Aziz

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Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has denied the existence of a French or American military base in his country, which is working with foreign nations to combat terrorism.

"There is no French, American or other base on Mauritanian ground, but there is co-operation with friendly countries to address the security challenge," Aziz said during a televised interview on Wednesday night marking the first anniversary of his inauguration.

After a joint Franco-Mauritanian military operation on July 22 against a unit of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Mali, the opposition demanded "clarification of the status of foreign forces currently located on our territory."

Aziz said the operation had been planned "for some time, on the basis of written data and specific information that one of our (military) bases in the east would be the target of an attack by terrorists based in (Mali)."

He added that if the raid "had resulted in the release of the hostage of a friendly country, we would have been happy to save his life and remove the terrorists."

Thirty French soldiers took part in the Mauritanian army offensive against a AQIM unit in Mali, hoping to find French hostage Michel Germaneau, 78.

Two days later AQIM claimed to have executed Germaneau to "avenge" seven of its members killed during the raid.

© 2010 AFP

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