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Africa
Mauritania coup leader rebuffs AU
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz rejects AU ultimatum to reinstate country's president.
Last Modified: 27 Sep 2008 22:18 GMT

The AU gave Mauritania's ruling military an October 6 deadline to re-instate Abdallahi [AFP]

The military coup leader who seized power in Mauritania last month has rejected an African Union (AU) ultimatum to reinstate Sidi Ould Sheikh Abdallahi as the country's president, saying it is not in the country's best interests.

"The position of the African Union is neither constructive, nor positive," General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz told reporters in the capital, Nouakchott, on Saturday.

"It does not serve the greater interests of the Mauritanian people."

The African Union had sought the reinstallation of president Abdallahi by October 6.

"It's unrealistic and illogical," the coup leader said. "He is a former president ... We cannot return to the past."

Deadline set

Earlier this week, the 53-member AU bloc gave Mauritania's ruling military junta the October 6 deadline to "restore constitutional order" and to reinstate Abdallahi, the country's first democratically-elected president.

Abdallahi, who was removed from power in the west African country on August 6, has been under house arrest since the coup.

His prime minister, Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghf, was re-arrested on August 22 and placed under house arrest.

The ruling military have since been under pressure from the AU, the United  Nations and the international community to reinstate Abdallahi, threatening sanctions and isolation.

Government formed

A statement issued by the presidency of the state council on September 1 said a 22-minister government had been formed with effect from the previous day.

A number of Western powers including the US and France have  refused to recognise the military government, denouncing it as "illegitimate".

In a rare press statement Saturday, Aziz admitted that the August coup was "abnormal".

"We are effectively in an abnormal situation in the absence of an elected president," he said.

But "you must recognise that all the other constitutional institutions (the National Assembly, the Senate) are working as usual," adding that he would hold a presidential election at some point in the future.

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