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France wants Dakar to skip Mauritania after four vacationers slain

1/3/2008

PARIS -- France's government urged the Dakar Rally on
Thursday to not race through Mauritania after the slaying there of
four members of a vacationing French family.

The race starts Saturday in Lisbon, Portugal, and is to finish
in Dakar, Senegal, on Jan. 20 after crossing Morocco and
Mauritania. More than 550 competitors on motorbikes and in cars and
trucks are expected to take part.

French ministers discussed safety at the rally at a cabinet
meeting Thursday, and foreign ministry officials met with the race's
French organizers, government spokesman Laurent Wauquiez said.

"The ministry strongly warns all French citizens against going
to Mauritania until further orders," Wauquiez said. "That goes
for all French, as well as the organization of the Lisbon-Dakar
rally."

Only the father of the slain family survived the Christmas Eve
attack in a town 150 miles from Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital, as the
family picnicked on the side of a road. Authorities blamed a terror
group linked to the Algeria-based al-Qaida in North Africa.

Rally director Etienne Lavigne subsequently met with Mauritanian
and French authorities to examine security. Organizers said he
obtained guarantees of reinforced security measures along the
route.