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Mauritania election postponed till July 21 after Senegal mediation
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08:44, May 31, 2009

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Mauritania's disputed presidential election has been delayed to July 21 from June 6 under an agreement brokered by Senegal between the rival sides, according to negotiators.

Participants in the three-day talks in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, announced the deal on Saturday, saying they reached a deal to hold the first round of election on July 21 and, if necessary, the second on Aug. 4.

Negotiators left the Meridien President hotel where they had held talks since Thursday to make a presentation together on the points of the freshly reached accord to Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, the facilitator designated by the African Union (AU), officials said.

Senegalese Foreign Ministry Cheikh Tidiane Gadio had previously spent days in Mauritania to help find a way out of the political crisis since Aug. 6, 2008, when the military junta toppled the northwest African country's first democratically elected president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi.

At the early stage of mediation, the military junta leader, General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, said he was ready for concessions on the date of the election, but not later than July 15, while the National Front of the Defense of Democracy (FNDD) and the Assembly of Democratic Forces (RFD), the backbone of the opposition, pressed for a halt on the election process, the release of political prisoners and the restoration of the constitutional order.

The FNDD and the RFD also demanded the vote take place within three to five months after all their preconditions are met. They threatened to boycott the polls if otherwise.

The Senegal-brokered accord comes with the backing of the International Contact Group on Mauritania, composed of the AU, the Arab League, the European Union, the International Organization of the Francophonie and the United Nations.

Mauritania is suspended from the AU and the Economic Community of West African States as part of the international sanctions to force the return of the constitutional order.

The military junta announced the June 6 election and the formation of an electoral commission in January, in search for an end to the months-old political crisis. Abdel Aziz resigned on April 15 from the presidency of the ruling High Council of State to run for the election.

The FNDD and RFD voiced the boycott, saying the electoral agenda was unilaterally imposed by the junta.

Mauritania, a former French colony, has witnessed repeated coups since its independence in 1960. The country is located in the west of the Sahara, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean in the west, Algeria and Western Sahara in the north, Mali in the east and the southeast, and Senegal to its south. The country has a territory of 1.03 million square km and a population of 3.18 million, of whom about 96 percent believe in Islam. In 1986, Mauritania was singled out by the United Nations as one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world.


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