Gen. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, head of Mauritania's military junta who seized power after ousting Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi (photo) in August, has promised to release the imprisoned president by December 24, according to a senior African diplomat.
AFP - The head of Mauritania's military junta who took power in an August coup has agreed to unconditionally free ousted president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi by December 24, a diplomat said Friday.
General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz gave the assurance to an international delegation led by Mahamat Saleh Annadif, African Union ambassador to Brussels, following a visit to Mauritania last week, the envoy said in a statement.
"The unconditional freeing of President Abdallahi would be a first step in response to the demands made by the international community," he added.
Delegates from the African Union, European Union, United Nations, the Francophonie, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League took part in the mission.
Representatives of those bodies, who met in Brussels on Friday, called for continued joint efforts to secure a return to constitutional order in Mauritania.
They confirmed in the ambassador's statement their intention to "draw conclusions from the persistent impasse at this stage and to take appropriate measures."
Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, Mauritania's first democratically-elected president, was ousted in the August 6 coup, hours after he issued a decree firing the military's top brass, including General Ould Abdel Aziz.
A spokesperson for the French European Union Presidency confirmed that the commitment had been given.
Since the coup, Ould Abdel Aziz's junta has taken over the powers of the president and formed a new government with the support of a majority of deputies in parliament.
It has refused international calls to reinstate Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and set a date for fresh elections.
The deposed president was moved to his home village last month after being held under house arrest in the capital Nouakchott.
The international community last month delayed sanctions against Mauritania and decided to send the international mission to meet its military rulers.
The EU is Mauritania's biggest aid donor and France, the region's former colonial power, still wields economic influence there.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose country holds the European Union presidency, said last month that although the AU and EU were "working on sanctions," he also believed there had been some progress in the country.
"Some progress has been made, such as allowing the elected president to return to his village and to receive visitors," he said.
"What's needed in Mauritania is a return to constitutional order and to no longer accept coups destabilising Africa. On that point, the European Union and African Union are in full agreement."
Date created : 2008-12-13