Interim gov't formed ahead of July 18 vote

Mauritania has appointed a transitional government ahead of next month's presidential elections after ousted president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi (pictured) officially resigned on Friday.


AFP - The transitional government that will lead Mauritania into presidential elections next month was appointed Friday after disputes that threatened to unravel an internationally brokered pact were overcome.

Ousted president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi signed the decree appointing the transitional government and then officially resigned his office in front of the Constitutional Council and Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who has led international mediation efforts.

The move signaled that disputes that held up implementation of an agreement reached earlier in the month to resolve the political crisis in the west African country had been overcome.

The installation of a transitional government was foreseen under an agreement signed on June 4 by all Mauritanian parties delaying the election until July 18, just days before a controversial presidential election was due to go forward.

General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who toppled Mauritania's first democratically elected president last August, was set to sweep the election as the opposition had boycotted the vote.

Under the agreement, a transitional government equally balanced between pro-junta and anti-coup forces was to be formed to organise the election.

But Ould Cheikh Abdallahi refused to appoint the transitional government and step down until the junta council was dissolved.

International mediators said Friday an agreement had been reached under which the junta would become a national defence council under the transitional government's authority.

After signing the decree to loud applause, Ould Cheikh Abdallahi said he was stepping down "to protect the country from the simultaneous dangers from the economic embargo, political stress and social explosion."

The African Union imposed sanctions on the junta and the European Union froze cooperation with Mauritania earlier this year.

Ould Cheikh Abdallahi called on Mauritanians "to unite to give hope" to holding transparent elections.

The elections are still to go ahead on July 18 despite the delay in appointing the transitional government, international mediators said Friday.

Although the political crisis was overcome, there were new fears in Mauritania on Friday after Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for this week's murder of an American teacher in Nouakchott.

Christopher Logest was shot several times from close range after he resisted an apparent kidnap attempt on Tuesday at a private language and computer school he ran, a witness told AFP.

The Al-Qaeda statement called him guilty of "the crime of missionary in the land of Muslims," according to US-based monitoring group SITE Intelligence.

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