Presidential election postponed to July 18

Mauritania's presidential vote has been moved to July 18 in an agreement negotiated in Senegal. The country has been in political stalemate since a military coup led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (pictured) in August 2008.


AFP - Mauritania's main political leaders were set to sign Wednesday an agreement brokered by international mediators that postpones this weekend's disputed presidential vote to July 18.

The deal, which should also see a temporary national unity government installed by Saturday, was signed in the Senegalese capital Dakar on Tuesday by representatives of the political parties which took part in the negotiations.

The deal signals an end to Mauritania's political stalemate since a military junta led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz last August toppled the west African country's first democratically elected president.

The opposition parties boycotted the presidential election due to have been held Saturday as a sham designed to legitimise the rule of Ould Abdel Aziz, who resigned as junta leader several weeks ago to stand in the election.

As part of the agreement, the opposition parties have agreed to participate in the election and will hold half of the ministries in the unity government, including the key ministries of information, finance and communication.

The text of the agreement also stipulates that the prime minister will be selected by Ould Abdel Aziz after consultations with the opposition.

The agreement was expected to be signed Wednesday by Mauritania's main political figures, most of whom were not present during the six days talks organised by mediators including representatives of the African Union, the United Nations, the United States, France and Senegal.

Ould Abdel Aziz for instance did not attend, preferring to campaign in rural Mauritania.

The head of the Union of Democratic Forces (RDF), Ahmed Ould Daddah, hailed the deal as a "victory of reason over violence."

"This is the dawn of a new era for democracy and development in Mauritania."

The agreement will also "open the path to cooperation that has been suspended for too long," said the European Union's mediator, Gilles Hervio, in Dakar.

The EU in April suspended its cooperation with Mauritania due to the coup, saying a resumption was conditional on a return to constitutional order.

A jubilant crowd of 1,500 people welcomed home Wednesday the negotiators of the agreement upon their arrival at Nouakchott's airport.

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