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Opposition set to defy junta over president

Latest update : 2008-10-07

Opponents of Mauritania's military leaders have threatened to defy a ban on public protests and back an African Union threat to impose sanctions unless the junta reinstates the country's ousted president.

Mauritanian opposition parties were set Tuesday to defy a ban on demonstrations to keep up pressure on the military junta, which let pass an African Union deadline to reinstate the ousted president.
The military junta, led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, made no official declaration as the African bloc's deadline for deposed president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi be returned to power "no later than Monday October 6" expired.
The African Union has threatened to impose sanctions, and opponents of the junta in the country called Monday on the bloc to make good on its threat against the junta, which ousted Mauritania's first democratically-elected president on August 6.
"We demand the immediate implementation of sanctions against the junta, in line with the ultimatum set by the AU if the military does not give up power," said Mohamed Ould Mouloud, a spokesman for the National Front for the Defence of Democracy, a coalition of five anti-coup parties.
The Front later announced plans to hold a march at 4 pm (1600 GMT) on Tuesday in Nouakchott despite a continued ban on demonstrations in order to keep up pressure on the junta.
On Sunday riot police used tear gas to disperse several small protests by supporters of the ousted president.
According to the anti-coup movement, the junta has begun an "escalation of repression against all political opposition".
In Nouakchott, politicians backing the military coup shrugged off the African Union ultimatum.
"We don't care about these (African Union) ultimatums, this doesn't scare anybody," said Sidi Mohamed Ould Maham, a spokesman for the majority of members of parliament who support the new military leadership.
But African Union chief Jean Ping and other officials said Monday a junta delegation had arrived at the bloc's headquarters in Addis Ababa for talks.
African Union officials say the sanctions could take the shape of travel restrictions and asset freezes, but observers in Addis Ababa say it is likely that the African bloc will take its time to decide the next move.
The president has been kept under house arrest since the coup, according to the army.
But his daughter, Amal Mint Cheikh Abdallahi, said his whereabouts were unknown since he was removed from power on August 6.
Abdallahi was ousted hours after he issued a decree firing the Mauritanian military's top brass, including Abdel Aziz, who was the commander of the presidential guard.
Since the coup, the junta has 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.

Date created : 2008-10-07