After marathon talks with the putsch leaders, African diplomats announced an agreement was close to being reached on the possible return of the deposed president Fradique de Menezes.

“We are about to reach an agreement,” Nigerian Ambassador to Sao Tome Saidu Pindar said.

Another diplomat said De Menezes, who is stranded in Nigeria, would return to the country “very soon.”

Besides negotiating the president’s return, the talks also dealt with returning the impoverished former Portuguese colony to constitutional rule.

Soldiers had seized control of Sao Tome last week in a pre-dawn coup, while President De Menezes was on an official visit to Nigeria.

Coup leader Major Fernando Pereira had said earlier that De Menezes’ hold on power was ‘not in question’ and the crisis in the small island-state would be resolved by the weekend.

“It is not the president who is in question, nor the prime minister, or anyone. It is a whole country, a nation that is in question,” he said.

The mediators negotiating with the coup leaders are drawn from several Portuguese-speaking African countries like Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Congo, Nigeria and Portugal as well as the United States.

The talks, taking place at the UN offices in Sao Tome, are being held under the auspices of the African Union.

Meanwhile, a team of eight South African mediators have arrived in Sao Tome on Tuesday to facilitate the talks.