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Independent from France in 1960, Mauritania annexed the southern third of the former Spanish Sahara (now Western Sahara) in 1976 but relinquished it after three years of raids by the Polisario guerrilla front seeking independence for the territory. Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA seized power in a coup in 1984 and ruled Mauritania with a heavy hand for more than two decades. A series of presidential elections that he held were widely seen as flawed. A bloodless coup in August 2005 deposed President TAYA and ushered in a military council that oversaw a transition to democratic rule. Independent candidate Sidi Ould Cheikh ABDALLAHI was inaugurated in April 2007 as Mauritania's first freely and fairly elected president. His term ended prematurely in August 2008 when a military junta led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel AZIZ deposed him and ushered in a military council government. AZIZ was subsequently elected president in July 2009 and sworn in the following month. The country continues to experience ethnic tensions among its black population (Afro-Mauritanians) and white and black Moor (Arab-Berber) communities, and is having to confront a growing terrorism threat by al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).


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Geography

Location
Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara

Geographic coordinates
20 00 N, 12 00 W

Map references
Africa

Area World Ranking: 29
Total 1,030,700 sq km
Land 1,030,700 sq km
Water 0 sq km

Area - comparative
Slightly larger than three times the size of New Mexico

Land boundaries
Total 5,074 km
Border countries
Algeria 463 km, Mali 2,237 km, Senegal 813 km, Western Sahara 1,561 km

Coastline
754 km

Maritime claims
Territorial sea 12 nm
Contiguous zone 24 nm
Exclusive economic zone 200 nm
Continental shelf
200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin

Climate
Desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty

Terrain
Mostly barren, flat plains of the Sahara; some central hills

Elevation extremes
Lowest point Sebkhet Te-n-Dghamcha -5 m
Highest point Kediet Ijill 915 m

Natural resources
Iron ore, gypsum, copper, phosphate, diamonds, gold, oil, fish

Land use
Arable land 0.2%
Permanent crops 0.01%
Other 99.79% (2005)

Irrigated land
450 sq km (2002)

Total renewable water resources
11.4 cu km (1997)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
Total 1.7 cu km/yr (9%/3%/88%)
Per capita 554 cu m/yr (2000)

Natural hazards
Hot, dry, dust/sand-laden sirocco wind blows primarily in March and April; periodic droughts

Environment - current issues
Overgrazing, deforestation, and soil erosion aggravated by drought are contributing to desertification; limited natural freshwater resources away from the Senegal, which is the only perennial river; locust infestation

Environment - international agreements
Party to
Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
Signed, but not ratified
None of the selected agreements

Geography - note
Most of the population is concentrated in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and along the Senegal River in the southern part of the country


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Mauritania (Nouakchott):
Country Flag
Country Locator

GPS points from Mauritania (Nouakchott)

square Abdallah Diori Mauritania (general)

square Tajalet Lemzinzra Mauritania (general)

square 'aguelt Moubarek Mauritania (general)

square Zingui Mauritania (general)

square Ait Zigli Mauritania (general)

square Kra'at Assabai Mauritania (general)

square Jemb Wilaya Du Hodh Ech Chargui

square Punta De Los Moros Wilaya De Dakhlet Nouadhibou




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