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Togo's Embattled President Tries to Avoid Sanctions


Togo's military installed president is trying to avoid more international sanctions, as he visits several African capitals. Togo's opposition is renewing calls for the son of the late, long-ruling leader to step down immediately.

The son of Gnassingbe Eyadema spent two hours meeting with Gabon's president, Omar Bongo, in Libreville Thursday, in an apparent attempt to stay in power.

Faure Gnassingbe said he had gone to Libreville to seek advice from Mr. Bongo. He called him a wise man and a brother. Mr. Bongo, who took power just months after Mr. Eyadema organized his coup in 1967, is now Africa's longest ruling leader. He made no comment.

Mr. Gnassingbe then headed to Tripoli for talks with Libyan officials.

Meanwhile, the African Union Peace and Security Council postponed a meeting on possibly imposing sanctions until Friday, for logistical reasons.

The West African grouping, ECOWAS, has already decided upon an arms embargo and travel restrictions, demanding Mr. Gnassingbe step down immediately, and allow new elections to be organized quickly.

Both groupings have called the transfer of power a coup.

But within ECOWAS, which includes Gabon and Togo, there appear to be dissensions. Earlier this week, another ECOWAS leader, Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, who came to power in a 1987 coup, said sanctions were not crucial.

He said, what's important is the stability of Togo. He added, European Union sanctions freezing aid money to Togo since the early 1990s have not helped improve democracy, as was the aim.

Since civil war broke out in Ivory Coast in 2002, Burkina Faso and other land-locked West African countries have increasingly relied on the port in Togo's capital, Lome, to receive goods.

A Togolese opposition leader, Jean-Pierre Fabre, says he believes sanctions can help, but that Togolese must fight for democracy themselves.

He said "Togo is not North Korea, where a leader can be replaced by his son when he dies."

Mr. Fabre says Togolese will not allow Mr. Gnassingbe to organize the elections himself.

He adds that authorities will have to "walk over the dead bodies of protesters," if they try. A new opposition rally is expected Saturday.

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