Mauritania junta names new prime minister after last week’s coup, frees prisoners
NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania – Mauritania’s self-declared head of state on Sunday named a new prime minister to replace the former premier who resigned along with his Cabinet after last week’s coup. A judge freed 21 people who had been detained for plotting against the ousted regime, a U.S. ally.Junta leader Col. Ely Ould Mohamed Vall named Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar as prime minister, the government said in a statement. The 49-year-old Boubacar returned to Mauritania on Saturday from France, where he had been serving as ambassador since 2004.The appointment followed the resignation earlier Sunday of former Prime Minister Sghair Ould M’Bareck and his Cabinet.Cabinet ministers had not shown up for work since Wednesday’s surprise coup toppled longtime President Maaoya Sid’Ahmed Ould Taya, currently in exile in nearby Niger.Boubacar served as prime minister from 1992-1996 and also headed Taya’s former ruling party until being posted to Paris.On Saturday, Vall met with the heads of more than 30 political parties and pledged to hold elections in less than two years. He also promised that no member of the 17-man junta would run in the vote, said Ahmed Ould Daddah, who heads the opposition Rally of Democratic Forces.The coup was welcomed by many in Mauritania who had grown weary of Taya’s harsh rule since taking power in a coup himself in 1984.But the United Nations and European Union denounced the coup and Washington called for Taya to be restored to power. The African Union also condemned the takeover, suspending Mauritania from the 53-nation body.On Sunday, a judge freed 21 people jailed since April 25 on charges of plotting against Taya, said Capt. Ahmed Ould Abeid, head of the central prison in the capital. At least 50 more people remain in prison on similar charges.Taya jailed dozens of opponents during his rule in this predominantly Muslim nation, including politicians, soldiers and Islamic activists. His main challenger in the 2003 presidential election, Mohamed Ould Khouna Haidalla, was detained for several days after the poll.Taya had allied Mauritania with the United States in the war on terrorism and with Israel, drawing criticism from Islamic leaders. Mauritania opened full diplomatic relations with Israel six years ago, becoming one of only three Arab League nations to do so.Analysts said Taya’s crackdown on opponents was believed to have contributed to the decision to stage the coup, but they also stressed a power struggle over recently discovered offshore oil might have been a factor.Mauritania is expected to begin producing crude for the first time in early 2006. Initial output is expected at about 75,000 barrels a day, significant for this impoverished nation but little compared with regional powerhouse Nigeria, which pumps about 2.5 million barrels a day.Vail, Colorado
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