EU delegates to meet Mauritanian junta in Paris

EU representatives will meet Mauritania's military government in Paris to press for a return to constitutional rule and the release of ousted President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi. The EU has warned of sanctions if talks fail.


Members of Mauritania's ruling junta were to meet European Union delegates in Paris on Monday to discuss restoring constitutional order to the country following a coup in August.

Under the threat of international sanctions, Mauritania's prime minister appointed by the military junta, Moulaye Ould Mohamed Leghdaf, is leading a delegation to persuade the EU the junta is taking steps to resolve the crisis.

Monday's meeting at the World Bank's offices comes two weeks after an African Union ultimatum calling on the junta to reinstate the country's first democratically elected president, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, passed unheeded.

The August 6 coup was widely condemned by the international community, with the European Union, the United States and the African Union continuing to call for a return to constitutional order in Mauritania.

The African Union has threatened sanctions against the west African country's new military leaders which officials say could take the shape of travel restrictions and asset freezes.

On Friday, the US embassy in Nouakchott said it was placing travel restrictions on members of the junta wanting to travel to the United States.

Despite saying it will do everything to avoid sanctions, the junta has categorically refused international demands to reinstate Abdallahi, saying it would not move backwards.

The new leadership has also 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.

In a statement issued on the eve of the talks, Mauritania's pro-democratic parties urged the European Union to take a strong line against the junta and insist on Abdallahi's reinstatement.

"The EU has a duty to oppose this blatant violation of democracy and... the promised elections," the five-party National Front for Defence of Democracy in Mauritania (FNDD) said.

On Saturday General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who led the August coup, set up a temporary commission to establish democratic conditions ahead of a return to constitutional order.

However Mauritania's opposition parties, who have organised protests and called for sanctions against the ruling junta, have refused to participate in the commission.

Monday's meeting in Paris is part of an EU-ACP (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific grouping) accord.

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