Military Council in Mauritania vows to hold new elections
The junta that took over Mauritania vowed to hold "free and transparent" presidential elections in a statement read on national radio Thursday, as the international community condemned the military coup.
The 11-member Military Council led by former head of the presidential guard General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz had on Wednesday "ended the power of the president of the republic, invested on April 19 2007," the statement said, according to AFP. The overthrown president, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, in March 2007 became Mauritania's first democratically elected president since independence.
The junta would together with other institutions "supervise the holding of presidential elections enabling the relaunch of the democratic process in the country and to reshape it on a perennial basis," the statement added. It promised: "These elections, which will be held in the shortest possible period, will be free and transparent and will bring for the future a continued and harmonious functioning of all the constitutional powers."
Meanwhile, the international airport of Nouakchott, closed down Wednesday after the military coup, was reopened in the evening, a security source said. The country's land borders had remained open.
The council's statement Thursday said it would respect all Mauritania's "treaties and international commitments". The president's whereabouts were unknown after the coup, while Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghf was taken to an army barracks near the presidency, security sources said.
According to the Mauritanian news agency Agence Nouakchott d'Information (ANI), Abdel Aziz met the rest of the government ministers Wednesday afternoon and asked them to stay on in their posts.
The coup triggered international condemnation, with Washington calling for the release of Mauritania's leaders and the EU threatening to cut off aid to the Arab League member country. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice condemned the coup and called on the military to free the president and prime minister "and to restore the legitimate, constitutional, democratically elected government immediately."
At the United Nations, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he "deeply regrets the overthrow of the government of President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi," and called for "the restoration of constitutional order," his spokeswoman said.
Condemnation also came from African powerhouses South Africa and Nigeria.