[QODLink]
Africa
Ousted Mauritania president resigns
Sidi Abdallahi's move, more than 10 months after coup, opens way for new election.
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2009 23:35 GMT

Mauritania's first freely elected president has formally resigned from office, paving the way for new elections more than 10 months after he was overthrown in a military coup.

Sidi Ould Sheikh Abdallahi handed over power to a transitional government on Saturday under a power-sharing deal with the soldiers who toppled him in August.

He announced his resignation just after midnight after a new round of talks with the country's military rulers brokered by Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal's president, in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital.

"I declare that I voluntarily renounce my position as president," Abdallahi said.

He said he is "happy to be the first elected president [in Mauritania] to have consented to give up power to preserve the greater interest".

Mauritania has been ruled by the military since the coup, but Abdallahi had maintained that he is the legal president.

Power-sharing deal

As part of the new deal, an interim government will take over from the country's military rulers to organise the vote.

Elections are scheduled to take place on July 18.

Ministerial positions in the transitional government are to be shared between Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz's military government and the National Front for the Defence of Democracy, the opposition coalition.

Abdel Aziz's decision to give up power as president in April constitutionally allowed him to run in elections.

'Step forward'

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, hailed the establishment of a transitional government of national unity as a major step toward consolidating democracy.

A UN statement said on Saturday: "The secretary general welcomes the signing late yesterday of the decree establishing a transitional government of national unity in Mauritania.

"He considers this an important step towards the consolidation of democracy in the country."

Ban expressed hope that the new transitional government "will lead the country towards a free, fair and transparent presidential election, held in a safe environment."

Jean Ping, the head of the African Union (AU), praised Abdallahi's decision to formally step down as the first step to holding peaceful elections, the AFP news agency reported.

Ping "expresses his high appreciation to President Sidi Ould Sheikh Abdallahi for his high sense of responsibility and the general interest," an AU statement said.

"This act opens the way for the organisation on 18 July 2009 of the first round of early presidential elections to enable the Mauritanian people to express their will in full sovereignty," it said.

The AU had imposed sanctions on Mauritania's military rulers earlier this year in response to the coup.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
A former rebel's museum keeps alive memories of the July 26, 1953 veterans who launched Cuba's revolution.
A revolutionary new treatment is halving hospitalisation rates for severe asthma sufferers.
More than fifty years of an armed struggle for independence from Spain might be coming to an end in the Basque Country.
Human rights and corporate responsibility prompt a US church to divest from companies doing business with Israel.
After the shooting-down of flight MH17, relatives ask what the carrier has learned from still-missing MH370.
join our mailing list