August 13, 2008 / 8:09 PM / 11 years ago

Mauritania junta seeks parties' presence in cabinet

(Adds details of parliamentary support)

By Vincent Fertey

NOUAKCHOTT, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Mauritania’s military rulers canvassed political parties and neighbouring states on Wednesday to garner support for a new government to lead the country to presidential elections after last week’s coup.

General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who ousted the country’s first democratically elected leader, was rebuffed by Algeria, which demanded the restoration of constitutional institutions.

A "High State Council" led by Abdel Aziz has issued a decree mandating it to appoint a government pending elections which are to be held "as soon as possible" to replace ousted President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who has been arrested.

In the clearest indication of support yet, 40 out of Mauritania’s 56 senators and 70 of its 95-seat parliament declared their approval of the coup on Wednesday.

Senate Vice-President Mohsen El Hadj said the coup would provide "space for dialogue" and he was happy with the decree.

Abdel Aziz met opposition leader Ahmed Ould Daddah ahead of planned meetings with some smaller parties on Wednesday.

After the meeting on Tuesday Ould Daddah said nothing publicly about the likely composition of a new government to lead Mauritania, Africa’s newest, if small-scale, oil producer and a growing producer of iron ore, gold and copper.

Ould Daddah lost a January 2007 presidential run-off vote and, like many parliamentarians who quit Abdallahi’s party two days before the coup, has supported the army takeover.


However, some minor opposition parties have united against the coup and are reluctant to join a military-led government in Mauritania, which spans Arab and black Africa.

"We are ready to talk to the State Council about the country’s political crisis, but not about us being part of the future government," said Mohamed Ould Maouloud of the Union of Forces for Progress (UFP), one of the parties.

He said El Khalil Ould Tiyeb, vice-president of the Popular Progressive Alliance (APP), another anti-coup party, had met Abdel Aziz but also rejected an offer to join the government.

Several dozen women protested against the junta in the capital Nouakchott on Wednesday morning but were dispersed by teargas, witnesses said.

The African Union, the United Nations and the European Union have condemned the coup and demanded Abdallahi’s release. The United States and France have halted development aid in protest.

Abdel Aziz has dispatched delegations to key African and Arab states in an apparent bid to soothe international worries.

But Algeria’s African Affairs Minister, Abdelkader Messahel, told the envoy that Mauritania should restore constitutional order and all its institutions, Algeria’s Foreign Ministry said.

The Algerian position echoes that of fellow north African states Tunisia and Libya, which also rejected the coup.

However Morocco, Algeria’s main regional rival, appeared to indirectly endorse the coup when King Mohammed dispatched his top aide, foreign intelligence service chief Yassine Mansouri, to meet the new Mauritanian leadership in Nouakchott on Tuesday.

As well as promising elections, Abdel Aziz has pledged to crack down harder on al Qaeda militants operating in the region. (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: (Additional reporting by Hachem Sidi Salem in Nouakchott, William Maclean in Algiers, Lamine Ghanmi in Rabat and Diadie Ba in Dakar; Writing by Alistair Thomson/David Lewis; Editing by Meg Clothier)

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