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Monday, 5 June, 2000, 14:09 GMT 15:09 UK
Water row in West Africa
Map of Senegal and Mauritania showing river senegal
River Senegal is now a source of conflict
Senegalese Prime Minister Mustapha Nyasse is going to Mauritania to try to defuse tensions over the exploitation of river waters on their common border.

The state-controlled Mauritanian news agency accused Senegal of "arrogance", saying the new administration of Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, has been seeking to undermine earlier agreements over the use of water from the Senegal River.



You can continue to go about your normal business freely and without any fear

Senegal Government statement to Mauritanians

"The depletion of water on the right bank is causing our farms to run dry," it said, adding that Senegal was hindering the economic progress of Mauritania.

Mali, Senegal and Mauritania are members of the Senegal River Development Organisation, set up to direct the use of its waters.

Expulsion orders

Tension over the water issue has prompted rumours that both sides have issued expulsion orders to their rival nationals to leave their countries.

A French News Agency (AFP) report from Nouakchott quoted the general secretary of the Senegalese Association in Nouakchott, Ibou Badian, as saying Senegalese had been given 15 days to leave Mauritania.

Mr Badian said he had however been assured that Senegalese citizens could leave "in all safety and confidence".

There was no immediate official confirmation of the order to kick the Senegalese out.

A Senegalese Government statement tried to reassure Mauritanians in Dakar that there was no cause for alarm.

"Senegal hereby strongly reaffirms that there are no problems between our country and the sister republic of Mauritania and that no threat whatsoever is looming for Mauritanians living in Senegal, " the statement said.

Thousands of Mauritanians in Senegal are highly involved in the retail trade, while many Senegalese in Mauritania do menial jobs.

Moroccan television said King Mohammed had spoken by telephone to the leaders of Senegal and Mauritania and urged restraint.

Eleven years ago, Senegal and Mauritania fought a bitter border war.

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