The leader of Mauritania's ruling junta said Sunday he would maintain relations with Israel, and vowed to vigorously fight terrorism, considered a national security issue in this West African nation. In his first press conference since ousting the former regime in a bloodless coup's, Col. Ely Ould Mohamed Vall told reporters that Mauritania "strongly condemns," international terrorism. "We shall do everything we can to stop international terrorism and prevent it from spreading in our country," Vall told some reporters at the presidential palace in the early hours of Sunday. In 1999 Mauritania became one of three Arab League nations to open diplomatic ties with Israel. The decision prompted heavy criticism from many Mauritanians and Arab nationalists. "We are going to maintain," relations with Israel, "because it is in the interest of both nations and for peace, Vall said.