August 9, 2005

US pushes constitution in shift on Mauritania coup

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Washington dropped its demand that
the ousted Mauritanian president be restored and said on
Tuesday it was now dealing with the coup's leaders to persuade
them to find a constitutional transition of power.

"The guys running the country right now are the guys we're
dealing with because they're the ones making the decisions and
we are trying to get them to make the right decision," State
Department spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters.

"That decision is to have in Mauritania a government that
is in power on the basis of constitutional process."

The U.S. remarks reinforced predictions from diplomats in
Mauritania who said foreign nations will support the military
junta that staged a bloodless coup if it shows it can live up
to its promise of organizing democratic elections.

A 17-member military council seized power in the Islamic
republic last week, ending two decades of authoritarian rule by
President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya and promising
presidential elections within two years.

Jubilant residents took to the streets of the capital
Nouakchott in celebration, while the opposition and even Taya's
own political party swiftly backed the junta's plans.

The United States, European Union and African Union among
others condemned the putsch, with Washington initially calling
for Taya to be restored to power.

Ereli repeatedly avoided answering directly if the United
States still wanted Taya back in his post.

"We are calling for the return of constitutional rule and a
government that is representative of the people and answerable
to the people," he said.