French expert: France cancelled Dakar Rally because of foreign pressures

French expert: France cancelled Dakar Rally because of foreign pressures

Ech-Chorouk, January 05, 2008

France has decided to cancel the Dakar Rally, which was supposed to start on January 5th due to pressures from neighbouring countries. Threats from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are overstated; which hits Mauritania’s political and economic situation, according to a French expert.

“French authorities have overstated what was previously known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). The terrorist organisation was each time threatening the Rally but solutions could be found in any case of attack,” Anne Giudicelli told Echorouk.

“This time, secondary solutions were not studied and the decision focused on the cancellation of the race this year,” she added.

The French expert believes that the French decision would make Al-Qaeda thinking that it had defeated the “enemies.”

“On the other hand, this French position is not coherent with the attitude of French President Nicolas Sarkozy who has always defended it,” she said.

“Each time, President Sarkozy refused to submit to terrorism.”

Asked whether Mauritania was not able to protect competitors, Giudicelli said the North African country tried to provide considerable guarantees to avoid the cancellation of the Rally.

“It was going to deploy 4,000 soldiers along the race track in addition to considerable security measures.”

“Personally, I did not understand why France considered that the terrorist threat could be different from previous ones,” said the French expert.

Anne Giudicelli believes that the terrorist organisation is relatively weak in Mauritania compared to Algeria where terrorist threat is bigger and more dangerous.

She says Al-Qaeda’s threat to the Sahara desert and Sahel is not new this year. Every year, the GSPC threats to hinder the motorcycle marathon and kill the competitors.

Asked about the setting up of a US base in the region, Giudicelli said the cancellation of the Dakar Rally is in favour of those who call on establishing AFRICOM alleging that terrorist threat is now regional and not in one nation only. That means this issue is exploited to support the US decision.

“It certainly does not mean that the United States was behind the cancellation of the Rally but it can try to exploit the event in its favour.”

The French expert said that Europeans do not have a clear position toward the establishment of a US base in Africa. “They did not clearly support it though they did not reject it.”

“This is due to the absence of a common vision between European nations about the issue. According to present data, the American project is far from being achieved within the opposition of African countries,” said Anne Giudicelli.


By : Mustapha Ferhat / Translated by : Halima Nine