Mauritania cuts ties with Israel, expels Israeli diplomats

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Friday, March 6, 2009

In response to the Israeli offensive into the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and the early part of 2009, the African country of Mauritania has cut diplomatic ties with Israel and expelled the Israeli diplomats in the country. They have been ordered to leave the country in no more than 48 hours.

As a result of the expulsion, the Israeli government has closed their embassy in Nouakchott and staff could be seen leaving the building. Military personnel were also seen dismantling security features around the embassy and the guards have been ordered to stand down.

"The Mauritanian authorities have given staff at the Israeli embassy in Nouakchott 48 hours to leave the country. After General Aziz took the decision at the Doha summit, an envoy from the Mauritanian Foreign Ministry sent a letter to the ambassador of Israel to leave the country," said an unnamed Mauritanian official.

The official also adds that the country's decision to cut ties with Israel was made in January, during an Arabic nation summit in Qatar. Despite the decision, Israeli officials said they were not aware of the expulsions.

"We don't know what is happening there exactly. We are still checking. They did not tell us they intend to expel our ambassador," said an Israeli official. The official also said that the expulsions could be a show of power ahead of the visit of Muammar Gaddafi, the president of Libya. "Maybe they are just showing they're tough."