Britain signals Maghreb push with anti-terror help

Tue Oct 18, 2011 4:17pm GMT

* Britain's Hague signals closer Maghreb ties

* UK offers anti-terror advice, other support

* Al Qaeda threat seen on rise in region

By Adrian Croft

NOUAKCHOTT, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Britain signalled on Tuesday a drive to deepen ties with countries of the Maghreb, pledging help to tackle a growing threat from allies of al Qaeda in the region.

British influence in Mauritania, Morocco and Algeria has traditionally been outweighed by that of ex-colonial master France. The Arab Spring uprisings, the Libyan war and the local rise of al Qaeda have highlighted their strategic importance.

"We believe we should step up our cooperation, our contact, with countries in this region," British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters in Mauritania on the latest leg of a tour that has included Libya and Morocco and will take in Algeria.

"This (trip) is an indication of a new British approach," he said, during the first trip to Mauritania by a British foreign secretary.

Mauritania, a desert state of just over three million which straddles North and sub-Saharan Africa, has sought in recent months to step up the fight against local al Qaeda agents after a spate of attacks on its army and Western expatriates.   Continued...

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