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Gaddafi Visits Mauritania for Crisis Talks


Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is in Mauritania on a mission to resolve that country's political crisis.

Military leader General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz welcomed Mr. Gaddafi to Mauritania will full honors at the airport before private talks Monday evening at Nouakchott's palace.

On Tuesday, the Libyan leader presides over a huge outdoor prayer service marking the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed. It is an occasion he has used to bring rivals together in the past including deals to reconcile Tuareg rebels with the governments of Niger and Mali.

The new head of the African Union is hoping to repeat that in Mauritania with a plan to resolve the country's political crisis following General Aziz's coup last August that toppled civilian President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdellahi.

Mr. Gaddafi met with General Aziz in Libya last week. He met separately with President Abdellahi Friday in talks that appear to have recognized the deposed leader's claim to power with Libya's state news agency describing Mr. Abdellahi as "the president."

What is known publicly of Mr. Gaddafi's plan includes a new independent electoral commission, new elections, and the demand that General Aziz step down immediately. The Libyan leader is expected to outline more of his proposal in remarks to Mauritania's National Assembly Wednesday.

General Aziz is so far refusing African Union demands to restore President Abdellahi, saying that would not serve the greater interests of the Mauritanian people. Instead, he wants to change the constitution to allow soldiers to run for office in new elections scheduled for June because he says that best reflects what he calls Mauritania's "new political and cultural reality."

General Aziz is widely expected to run for president in June but has not publicly announced his candidacy.

The African Union has suspended Mauritania and imposed sanctions that include travel restrictions on military and civilian members of the military government. The European Union is threatening sanctions. The United States is blocking $15 million in military cooperation, more than $4 million in peacekeeping training, and $3 million in development assistance.

Mr. Gaddafi has repeatedly accused unnamed "foreign parties" of meddling in Mauritania and says a solution to the crisis must come from within Africa.

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