Iran to complete hospital that Israel started building in Mauritania  
      By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent  
      Tags: Israel News, Iran, Mauritania 

      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 

      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 

      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."  


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