March 29, 2009
Just a few weeks after the Israeli ambassador to Mauritania was ordered to leave the country, with encouragement from Iran, the regime in Tehran is attempting to take control of a hospital for cancer research and treatment in the Mauritanian capital, which has symbolized relations between Jerusalem and Nouakchott.
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, visited Mauritania on Wednesday, marking the first such visit since 1982. Although the visit lasted only six hours it included a stop at the hospital known by locals as “the Israeli hospital.”
The hospital project has been stalled since Mauritania severed relations with Israel earlier this month. There are reports that Iran paid the Mauritania government about $10 million to kick out the Israeli ambassador.
During his visit to the hospital, Mottaki promised that Iran will “replace” Israel and equip the hospital as needed. Mottaki praised the government of Mauritania for suspending relations with Israel, saying “Our enemies in the Middle East have reached the end of the road.”
The hospital was initiated in 2000 by the Ministry of Health, which envisioned the establishment of an advanced center for cancer research and treatment in Mauritania. The project has gone through ups and downs and was stalled at various stages due to hesitation on the part of the Nouakchott government.
About nine months ago the project was kicked into high gear, following requests by the local government, and the pace of work was stepped up. An official inauguration ceremony was to have taken place within the next two months. Israel was to have sent over advanced medical equipment, including state-of-the-art X-ray machines, and a team of doctors was planning to travel to Mauritania to train local physicians in the treatment of cancer patients.
Several million shekels were spent on the project, which was funded partly by the Israeli government and partly by the American Jewish Committee.
“The aim was to build a medical center that would be a gift from the Jewish people to the Mauritanian people,” a source involved with the project said. “What happened there with the Iranians is very regretful. There’s no doubt that the Mauritanians acted out of spite.”