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Dakar 2008: Moroccans saddened by Dakar Rally decision.

The news about the cancellation of the 30th Dakar Rally had a strong effect in Morocco. The event serves as an annual boost for international tourism. Morocco usually reaps millions of Euros from the passage of the race over its territory. Morocco's Minister of Youth and Sports Nawal El Moutawakel told the Moroc Magazin [ ]: "We are sorry for the cancellation of 2008 Dakar Rally. It's a loss for Morocco, the land of peace." She added, "We are confident that the rally, which was cancelled for reasons beyond our control, will return next year."

The Maroccan Car-Racer Saida Ibrahimi said, "The cancellation left a great shock on all participants, especially for us, the Moroccans, who would participate for the first time. We didn't imagine that the event, which has been organized for 30 years, would be cancelled." Royal Moroccan Federation for Car Racing President Mohammed Felous said, "This cancellation is not good because we were going to take part for the first time in the race in both the car and motorcycle categories."

Mohammed Darif, a Moroccan expert on Islamist groups, noted that despite security threats Morocco has seen in recent years, "the rally was not cancelled, and the course of the Moroccan stage was not even changed." However, he added, "The whole event was cancelled as soon as some French tourists were targeted in Mauritania for the first time."

Dakar Rally director Etienne Lavaigne, told the press "The French government strongly recommended that we cancel the race. This is in addition to the fact that some statements issued by al-Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb mentioned the name of the race. This is according to the prime minister's office which has the text of these statements." Because the threats were "not confined to the Mauritanian stage but were against the entire race", Portugal Rally organizer Joao Lagos said, the cancellation was "inevitable".

2008/01/07 | 14:28 CET | Source: Cherkaoui, [ ]

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