AFP - The head of the Mauritanian junta announced Sunday that he will resign "before the end of the week" in order to launch his candidacy for presidential elections slated in June.
General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who took power in an August coup, said during a live radio press conference that he was quitting "to establish my candidacy for presidential elections," due on June 6.
The general, who ousted the west African country's first democratically elected leader Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi last August, has to stand down by April 22 if he wants to become a presidential candidate.
"There will be no postponement of the June 6 elections. Ninety percent of Mauritanians want these elections, it is the people's choice," he said last week in response to media speculation.
After deposing Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, the general formed a state council of 11 military officials.
Mauritania's government has already announced the creation of a new electoral commission to organise and monitor the election.
Ould Abdel Aziz also warned that "African Union sanctions are not and will not be effective" as an African Union delegation stepped up mediation efforts here to end the political crisis.
He added: "Even if 50 African countries, and not (just) the 15 on the peace and security council, decide on sanctions, nothing will change...
"Those on the outside who want to see sanctions imposed... are realising they are useless. It's really to the Mauritanians (they) must go to look for the solution," he stated.
The delegation arrived late Saturday with AU peace and security council president Ramtane Lamamra and Libyan Foreign Minister Aly Triki, whose country holds the continental body's rotating presidency.
The envoys held talks with Mauritanian Foreign Minister Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou on Saturday.
On Sunday, however, a significant slice of the opposition Rally for Democratic Forces (RFD) came out in favour of taking part in the vote in a dispute that has split the party.
"We ask the party's president and his authorities to consider this option within the framework of internal dialogue," RFD vice-president Kane Hamidou Baba, suspended from the party on Saturday, told a news conference.
Meanwhile, the head of another party that backed last year's coup, the Alliance for Justice and Democracy-Movement for Renovation (AJD-MR), also said he will stand.
The AU's peace and security council announced last month it would impose sanctions on "those in power," with the list due to be drawn up at the end of April.
The AU mission follows a mediation bid by Senegal last week. Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi also visited the country in March but opponents of the coup rejected his mediation as biased.