Jidanah officially registered with the constitutional council as a candidate for next months elections in the vast Sahara desert country of 2.7 million people, just hours before the deadline for submitting applications.

Jidanah later said she had encountered "great difficulty" getting the requisite number of signatures to stand in the election.

Potential candidates must be endorsed by 50 local government officials, but the councillors approached by Jidanah "initially thought there was little credibility in the idea of a woman running for the country's highest office," she said.

Endorsement

She said most of those who endorsed her candidacy were from the opposition, but she had also convinced some from the ruling Democratic and Social Republican Party to back her attempt.

"In the end, thanks to perseverance and persuasion, we were able to overcome peoples' reluctance," Jidanah said.

She declared she would be the candidate for "all women" and hoped that her large family network – she has ties to four large tribes in Mauritania - would help her win a honourable score in the vote.

Jidanah will be competing against five other candidates who have lodged attempts to challenge the incumbent Muawiya Wald Taya.