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ECOWAS Slams Togo Coup

The West African organization known as ECOWAS says it will not recognize the new president of Togo, the son of deceased leader Gnassingbe Eyadema. It has also threatened sanctions against the small nation of Togo unless he resigns.

After a lightning summit in Niger Wednesday, ECOWAS heads of state said they will soon send a high-level delegation to Lome, Togo's capital, to pressure authorities to restore what they called constitutional order.

Before Mr. Eyadema's death Saturday, the constitution stipulated that in case of the president's incapacity to govern, the assembly speaker should lead the country for a maximum of 60 days until new elections. But the military immediately installed Mr. Eyadema's son, Faure Gnassingbe, as the new leader.

Parliament voted out its parliament speaker Fabare Tchaba on Sunday, replaced him with Mr. Gnassingbe and then voided the 60-day rule saying he could stay in power until 2008. A Senegalese human rights lawyer, Ibrahima Kane, says he is surprised at how quickly ECOWAS acted.

"The fact that ECOWAS managed to have a meeting just three or four days after Eyadema's death, I think it's a kind of victory for those who really think that rule of law must run all West African countries," he said.

Earlier in Togo, Mr. Gnassingbe spoke on state television, promising elections soon but ignoring criticism of how he got to power. He said it was time for a new spirit in Togo, so everyone, including the opposition, could push forward democratic reform. He did not give dates for the elections and did not say whether these would include a presidential ballot.

Mr. Eyadema was the longest serving African leader at nearly 38 years. The 53-nation African Union has also threatened sanctions if his son does not give up power.