NOUAKCHOTT (AFP) — Sidi Ould Sheikh Abdallahi, ousted as Mauritania's elected president in an August 6 coup, has been released from house arrest, according to a security source.
"President Sidi has been freed," the source told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that Sidi was back in Nouakchott after his confinement in his home village of Lemden, 250 kilometres (150 miles) from the capital.
Mauritania's ruling junta, under international pressure to free Abdallahi, had been expected to free him in the coming days to allow him participate in a "national consultation meeting" on December 27.
Abdallahi, 70, was the first Mauritanian president ever to be elected in multi-party elections since the largely desert nation of 3.36 million gained independence from France in November 1960.
Four military vehicles went to Lemden to pick up Abdallahi -- known popularly among Mauritanians as Sidi -- and bring him to Nouakchott in the early hours of Sunday, the security source said.
"The soldiers dropped him off at his place, his private residence in Nouakchott," the source said. "He now is free to move."
General Ould Abdel Aziz, the commander of the presidential guard that led the August 6 coup, had stated that the president would be released "without conditions" by December 24 at the latest.
The European Union had threatened the junta with sanctions -- ranging from suspension of diplomatic relations to the withdrawing of development aid -- in protest over the coup and the president's internment.
The United States meanwhile called for Abdallahi to be reinstated as president, and for a return to constitutional rule.
In an interview published in the French newspaper Le Monde on Saturday, Abdallahi ruled out participating in the December 27 talks, saying that to do so "would be to legitimise the coup d'etat".
Ould Abdel Aziz's junta has taken over the powers of the president and formed a new government with the support of a majority of deputies in parliament. It promised fresh elections in 2009.
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