In Maritania President Moktar Ould Daddah has confirmed that French military aircraft took apart in operations against Algerian - backed Polisario guerrillas during two bouts of fighting inside Mauritania in December.
CU: President Moktar Ould Daddah of Mauritania seated listening to question from reporter.
GV: Aircraft flying over burned-out trucks in Desert.
CU: Machine gun firing and Polisario troops running in desert PAN TO burned truck. (THREE SHOTS)
SV: Mauritanian troops arriving in jeeps and burning vehicles. (TWO SHOTS)
CU: Ould Daddh listening to question and replying.
SV: Burning vehicles and bodies of Polisario guerrillas lying in sand. (FOUR SHOTS)
CU: Ould Daddah speaking.
Shortly after eight French nationals who had been held as hostages by Polisario guerrillas were released French Foreign Minister Louis de Guiringaud announced that French aircraft had taken part in the two strikes against Polisario guerrillas, in support of Mauritanian forces.
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Background: In Maritania President Moktar Ould Daddah has confirmed that French military aircraft took apart in operations against Algerian - backed Polisario guerrillas during two bouts of fighting inside Mauritania in December.
SYNOPSIS: President Ould Daddah was speaking about the French role in the dispute over the Western Sahara in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott on Thursday (29 December). Asked about the apparent disparity between French and Mauritanian statements over the question of intervention by French aircraft against Ploisario guerrillas, President Ould Daddah confirmed that French Jaguar aircraft based in Dakar, Senegal had taken part in two operations during December.
He said that the French planes operated in conjunction with Mauritanian forces to "intercept and push back Algerian columns which attacked the train". This particular train carries Mauritania's vital iron ore from inland mines to the coast.
During one of the attacks mentioned by President Ould Daddah Mauritanian sources said that the guerrillas came out of the desert in a column of about 50 trucks, only days after the railway line had been re-opened following an earlier guerrilla strike. Mauritanian sources claim that 41 guerrillas were killed, with the lose of only 17 Mauritian troops. Speaking about the events, President Ould Daddah said that there were two encounters - one on the 12th and the other on the 18th of December and that French planes intervened at the request of the Mauritanian government.
President Ould Daddah was then asked how the French intervention came about. Was it agreed an at ministerial level, or did he have direct conversations with French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing on the telephone? In reply the Mauritanian President drew attention to the fact that a defence treaty with France had been in existence since Mauritania's independence in 1960.
He went on to say that direct French military involvement in the war with the Polisario guerrillas was a temporary state of affairs and will last only as long as it takes for the Mauritanian security forces to reach the stage of being able to cope with the problem by themselves.