Mauritanian president says returning to France for treatment

NOUAKCHOTT Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:20pm EST

Mauritania's President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz listens to French President as they speak to journalists after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, November 20, 2012. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Mauritania's President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz listens to French President as they speak to journalists after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, November 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

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NOUAKCHOTT (Reuters) - Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz said on Thursday he will once again travel to France for medical treatment for a bullet wound he suffered in mid-October.

The Western ally in the fight against al Qaeda in Africa already spent nearly six weeks in France recuperating from the wound to his abdomen, which his government said was caused when a Mauritanian patrol accidentally fired on his car.

He returned to Mauritania's capital, Nouakchott, last Saturday, easing fears concerning the state of his health and uncertainty over who was managing the country - which has suffered two coups since 2005.

"I leave tomorrow for appointments in France," Abdel Aziz said in a press conference broadcast on national television. "I need to do further testing and X-rays. I will leave only for a few days," he said.

He has repeatedly said that he has remained in charge of the country throughout the ordeal, and that his injury was not life threatening.

Straddling black and Arab Africa on the continent's west coast, Mauritania, a country of 3.2 million people, is an iron ore, copper and gold producer with a budding off-shore oil and gas sector.

The country has launched at least two airstrikes on Islamist camps in neighboring Mali since 2010, raising fears of a fresh attack on Mauritanian soil.

The northern two-thirds of Mali is now in the hands of al Qaeda-linked rebels since a coup earlier this year, and African and western governments are mulling an international intervention to retake the zone.

On Thursday, rebels from Islamist group Ansar Dine took control of a Malian town near the Mauritanian border after ousting Tuareg rebels from the MNLA separatist group.

(Reporting by Laurent Prieur; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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