The amir of Qatar, Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, commended the orientation of the new government in Mauritania and expressed hope that the military coup would serve as a prelude for a democratic era in the country.

Speaking to Aljazeera on Saturday, Shaikh Hamad said: "What is happening in Mauritania is an internal affair, and the statements by its military leaders indicate that the country is heading toward democracy."

Shaikh Hamad added that the offer to host deposed Mauritanian leader Maawiya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya would not affect relations between the two countries.

Appeal to UN

Meanwhile, Mauritania's military leaders called on the United Nations for assistance in organising elections.

President Ely Ould Mohamed Vall
has asked for UN assistance

They also requested that monitors be dispatched to the country for balloting meant to bring democracy to the West African nation.

The 17-member military council that took power in a bloodless 3 August coup has promised parliamentary and presidential elections within two years.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday it was requesting UN help in arranging international observers as well as technical and logistical assistance for the vote.

The interim Mauritanian president, Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, was national police chief when he led the coup that ousted Taya.

21-year rule


Taya's iron-fisted 21-year rule sparked widespread discontent, and Mauritanians largely welcomed the coup.

Taya's 21-year rule saw 
widespread discontent

Taya was criticised by many Mauritanians for allying his overwhelmingly Muslim nation with the United States in its "war on terror" and opening full diplomatic relations with Israel six years ago, becoming one of three Arab League nations to do so.

Taya cracked down on opponents, jailing scores and branding them "terrorists".

A power struggle over recently discovered offshore oil reserves might have also played a role in the coup.

The desert nation is expected to begin pumping crude for the first time in early 2006.

Taya, who seized power in a 1984 coup, was out of the country when Vall staged the coup.