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Comoros president urges Arab leaders to reject Mayotte vote

Video by Jonathan WALSH , Sarah DRURY

Latest update : 2009-04-01

Comoros President Ahmed Abdullah Mohamed Sambi has urged Arab League leaders to reject the referendum vote, held on Comoros island Mayotte on Sunday, to become fully French. Residents voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining France.

AFP - Comoros President Ahmed Abdullah Sambi urged fellow Arab League leaders at a summit in Doha on Monday to reject the vote by residents of the Indian Ocean island of Mayotte to become a part of France.

Mayotte voted on Sunday to become a full part of France, in a referendum which would put an end to local traditions like polygamy and curb the powers of Islamic courts.

"The island of Mayotte is an occupied Arab territory and all measures by the occupation state are illegal," Sambi said in an address to Arab leaders gathered in the Qatari capital.

He urged them to voice "solidarity with the people of the island of Comoros in their legitimate, legal sovereign right to recover the island of Mayotte and to issue a statement, as has the African Union, rejecting the referendum."

More than 95 percent of those who voted supported Mayotte becoming France's 101st department, the French government announced. Mayotte is currently an overseas "collectivity" with specific autonomy powers.

The vote means that by 2011 the Muslim-majority island will complete an integration with France begun in 1974, when Mayotte split from three other islands in its archipelago which chose independence and became the Comoros.

The African Union and the Comoros administration -- which sees Mayotte as a territory "occupied" by France -- have denounced the referendum.

"France is the country of democratic institutions, of the motto "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. Where have those slogans disappeared to?" asked the Comoros president.

"Why doesn't France organise a poll of the residents of French Corsica to see if they want to separate from France?"

On Sunday, several hundred people marched to the French embassy in Moroni and burned a French flag as they sang their national anthem in protest at the Mayotte referendum, a diplomat in the Comoros capital said.

The Comoros have seen frequent coups since independence and are poorer than Mayotte, whose relative wealth makes it a magnet for illegal migrants who make a perilous boat journey there.
 

Date created : 2009-03-31

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