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Freed PM vows struggle for President's return

©

Latest update : 2008-08-12

Deposed Mauritania Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghf, released by the coup leaders' military State Council after international pressure, vowed to lead a struggle to restore the country's elected leadership.

NOUAKCHOTT - Mauritania's prime minister vowed on Monday to lead a peaceful struggle to restore the country's deposed president and France said it was suspending aid to the West Africa country.

 

Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed El Waghef was released earlier in the day, with his interior minister and several other officials. They were detained with President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi during a bloodless coup last week.

 

The overthrow of the country's first democratically elected leader since independence has been widely condemned but the junta now in charge has refused to release the president despite cuts in aid and diplomatic isolation.

 

Fresh from his release, El Waghef addressed about one thousand people demonstrating in the capital against the coup, led by presidential guard chief Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

 

"We are going to continue our peaceful struggle for the return of the president," he told Reuters at the rally.

 

The rally was the most significant show of support yet for Abdallahi, elected last year after a 2005 coup also instigated by Abdel Aziz.

 

Crowds chanted Abdallahi's name, held up posters bearing his photo and demanded the military returned to its barracks.

 

Police were present but there was no violence.

 

El Waghef said he was "a little tired" but the president, whose whereabouts were unknown, was "well".

 

Abdel Aziz heads a "High State Council" and has vowed to hold elections, in which he has not ruled out standing.

 

International condemnation of the coup has been widespread. Earlier in the day, former colonial ruler France announced it was suspending aid and was considering further sanctions with its European Union partners as a response.

 

Paris reiterated calls for the president's release.

 

The African Union decided at the weekend to suspend Mauritania and Washington has cut all non-humanitarian funding, including $15 in military aid.

 

Mauritania straddles black and Arab Africa and has emerged as an ally of the United States in the war on terror.

 

Its importance has been accentuated in the past 12 months, during which militants have killed several French tourists and members of the security forces. An attack on the Israeli embassy showed the tension caused by the Islamic republic's relationship with the Jewish state.

 

Abdallahi's election last year aroused hopes of stability in a country that has started producing oil and is rich in other resources such as gas and iron ore, but has been plagued by coups and mutinies.

 

The president was weakened by a social crisis and eventually undone by opposition from parliamentarians and members of the armed forces, who have long meddled in politics.

Date created : 2008-08-12

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