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Mauritanian police break up protest
Clash in Nouakchott occurs as AU deadline for reinstating ousted president expires.
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2008 23:51 GMT

Abdallahi was Mauritania's first democratically-elected leader [AFP]

Police in Mauritania have clashed with protesters supporting Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, the ousted president.

On the same day, the African Union urged the ruling generals once again to reinstate the country's first democratically elected leader.

Violence erupted in the capital Nouakchott on Tuesday when riot police tried to break up an anti-coup demonstration with tear gas.

After calling for peaceful protest marches, six Mauritanian unions announced in the afternoon that they had changed tactics.

"Today we have decided to go ahead with our planned protests but we have changed strategy and instead of a peaceful march we will seek a confrontation," Samory Ould Beye, a union leader, told the AFP news agency.

Fateful showdown

Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was overthrown on August 6, hours after he issued a decree firing the military's top brass, including Ould Abdel Aziz, who was the commander of the presidential guard.

Since the coup, the generals have taken over the powers of the president and formed a new government with the support of a majority of the deputies in parliament.

The new leadership has promised to hold elections quickly, but no date has been set and parliament has voted to delay a presidential vote by at least a year.

AU pressure

In a related development, a delegation of generals met African Union officials in Addis Ababa, one day after an AU deadline for reinstating the deposed president passed unheeded despite the threat of sanctions.

Jean Ping, the AU chief, "took the opportunity ... to reiterate the  African Union's standpoint" that Mauritania should reinstate Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, the organisation said in a statement after the meeting.

The statement said that "in the face of the absence of a return to constitutional order" in the west African country, its Peace and Security Council would make propositions "at the right time" on how to move forward.

The army says Ould Cheikh Abdallahi has been kept under house arrest but his daughter says his whereabouts are unknown.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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