On Tuesday, a group of 18 opposition parties threatened to boycott the election unless the government could guarantee "fairness".
 
Weekend deaths
 
The announcement came against a backdrop of more than 20 deaths over the weekend in regional elections which EU and US observers in Nigeria said were also marred by numerous voting irregularities.
 
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"Government troops battled armed men in northern Nigeria ... as tension mounted over the presidential election"

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The parties had said the regional elections on April 14 should be annulled, the national election commission should be disbanded, and further elections should be postponed until "transparency and fairness" can be guaranteed.

 

The statement was read at the end of a meeting in the presence Atiku Abubakar, the current vice-president, and General Muhamadu Buhari - two leading opposition candidates in the presidential election.

 

Earlier the election commission ruled that Atiku Abubakar, the current vice-president, could stand in the vote, reversing an earlier move to exclude him after the supreme court decided on Monday that the commission did not have the right to disqualify candidates.

  

Abubakar, excluded from the initial list of approved candidates following corruption allegations, is one of two opposition figures expected to pose a serious challenge to the ruling party's Umaru Yar Adua.

 

Gun battle

 

On Wednesday, government troops battled armed men in northern Nigeria, adding to the tension in the run-up to the presidential vote.

 

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Atiku Abubakar

An army spokesman said at least 25 of the armed men were killed during the operation.

 

Gunfire broke out around sunrise on Wednesday near the area where a group of suspected Muslim fighters were holed up.

 

The same group reportedly attacked a police station a day earlier.

 

Residents said they believed the armed men were members of an outlawed, self-styled Islamic movement that has clashed with security forces in recent years.