2001 - 2002


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. Opposition parties were legalized and a new constitution approved in 1991. Two multiparty presidential elections since then were widely seen as being flawed; Mauritania remains, in reality, a one-party state. The country continues to experience ethnic tensions between its black minority population and the dominant Maur (Arab-Berber) populace.
Location: Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara
20 00 N, 12 00 W
Population: 2,747,312 (July 2001 est.)
Area: total:  1,030,700 sq km
land:  1,030,400 sq km
water:  300 sq km
slightly larger than three times the size of New Mexico
Climate: desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty
Terrain: mostly barren, flat plains of the Sahara; some central hills
Elevation: lowest point:  Sebkha de Ndrhamcha -3 m
highest point:  Kediet Ijill 910 m

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