NOUAKCHOTT - Already tense relations between Mauritania and Libya have been jarred by new accusations that Tripoli was behind a foiled plot to overthrow President Maaouiya Ould Taya.
And while Burkina Faso, whose President Blaise Compaore is a long-time ally of Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi, is also accused of backing the failed putsch on August 9, Tripoli is bearing the brunt of the accusations.
Observers in Nouakchott said Friday that the coup, allegedly timed to coincide with a trip to France by the president, was a hostile response by Kadhafi to Mauritania's diplomatic ties to Israel.
Kadhafi has excoriated the pro-Western government of Taya since it opened relations in 1999 with the "Zionist menace".
In return, Mauritania has repeatedly accused Libya of fomenting dissent among its mostly Muslim population of 2.7 million people, spread out across the arid nation the size of France and Spain combined.
Pro-government media have made no secret of their convictions that Kadhafi was involved a June 8, 2003 putsch that was put down by loyalist military after 36 hours of fighting in Nouakchott, though Taya himself has been more circumspect.
Tripoli was also accused of financing a failed attempt by former president Ould Haidalla, who had developed close links to Libya's radical Islamic regime, to destabilize Taya's government during November 7 elections that same year.
This year's attempted putsch, which allegedly was to include a massacre in Nouakchott, purportedly involved a roster of colonels and other military officials who had tried and failed before in their quest to oust Taya, who himself seized power in a 1984 coup.
Armed forces chief Colonel Sidi Ould Riha said late Thursday that "two groups of commandos" were set to cross into Mauritania between August 16-20 from Libya and Burkina Faso, at which time Taya was expected to be in France for ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the Allied landings in World War II.
At least 30 people, including high-ranking military officials, were arrested August 9. Taya cancelled his European visit.
Hoping to prevent the bad blood between Taya and Kadhafi from curdling completely, regional leaders and groupings such as the African Union and Arab Maghreb Union have moved to broker a reconciliation.
Foreign ministers from the two countries met two weeks ago in Morocco with King Mohammed VI but could not break the stalemate.