EU condemns Mauritania coup, could withhold aid

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission condemned Wednesday’s coup in Mauritania and demanded that President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi be returned to power.

The EU executive, which had allocated some 156 million euros of aid for the West African country for 2008-2013, said the coup could put this cooperation into question.

“The European Commission is very concerned by the situation in Mauritania, which puts into question the remarkable democratic progress in this country,” it said in a statement.

“This situation could put into question our policy of cooperation with Mauritania,” EU Aid and Development Commissioner Louis Michel said, adding the president and prime minister should be freed and returned to power quickly.

Presidential guardsmen seized the Mauritanian President in a coup on Wednesday after he sacked several top army officers, and announced that he had been deposed.

The EU froze aid to Mauritania after a coup in 2005. It resumed it after the then military-led government pledged to organize elections and release political prisoners.

Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Editing by David Brunnstrom