(AFP) – Aug 17, 2008
NOUAKCHOTT (AFP) — The head of a junta that toppled Mauritania's president this month vowed to organise elections shortly and to crack down on corruption in his first broadcast address Sunday.
"I commit myself before you and before God almighty to organise free and transparent presidential elections as soon as possible," General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz said in remarks carried on television and radio.
The general, who did not specify a date for the vote, spoke 11 days after an August 6 coup which ousted democratically-elected president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi.
He has since formed a State Council comprised of 11 military officials, promised to hold elections and on Thursday appointed a new prime minister to head a transitional government.
In his address Sunday, Ould Abdel Aziz sharply criticised the former president for allegedly tolerating a climate of corruption and for a miserable economic record.
The general also vowed to launch a "fight without mercy against terrorism" -- along with drug trafficking and organised crime in the country.
The largely desert nation has been shaken by three attacks since December 2007 which left seven people dead including four French tourists, leading to the cancellation of the Paris-Dakar rally and a fall in vital tourist revenues.
The international community has denounced the coup and on Saturday a small group of Mauritanian lawmakers announced a drive to return the president to power.
But the majority of lawmakers this week said they backed the coup -- as did most of the country's mayors -- and national assembly deputies have called for special moves that could open the way for a trial of the president.
Twenty-six members of parliament declared Sunday their mass resignation from Abdallahi's party in a show of support for the coup. They included Lamrabot Ould Benahi, who was minister for civil society and relations with parliament.
More than 300 opponents of the coup meanwhile took part in a debate organised by the National Front for the Defence of Democracy, where all speakers called for Abdallahi to be reinstated as president.
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