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Mauritania Bans Anti-U.S. Protests By SHEIKH BEKAYE Associated Press Writer

Nouakchott, Mauritania-AP-The Arab-dominated West African nation of Mauritania has banned anti-U.S. protests and deployed hundreds of security forces in the capital to enforce the prohibition.

Opposition political parties and civil organizations had planned to demonstrate Tuesday against the U.S. preparations for a possible invasion of Iraq.

Participants instead received a notice from the Interior Ministry informing them of the ban, said Mohamed Ould Mawloud, leader of the opposition Union of Progressive Forces.

“Policemen demonstrated instead of us,” Ould Mawloud said, referring to the police deployed to make sure the march did not occur. “We’re obliged now to limit our actions against the war to inside our headquarters.”

There was no immediate comment from the government.

Straddling Arab and black Africa on the edge of the Sahara Desert, Mauritania’s government since the 1990s increasingly has looked westward, despite ties of some leading figures to the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein.

The government is anxious to avoid a repeat of the reaction to the Persian Gulf War, when relations with the United States and Arab Gulf states deteriorated after what were seen as pro-Iraq demonstrations.

Mauritania cut ties to Iraq in 1999 after Iraq criticized its decision to open diplomatic relations with Israel. Mauritania is one of only three nations in the Arab League to have full diplomatic ties with Israel

Published 6:00 pm, Tuesday, January 28, 2003

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