Political and military leaders in Mauritania, on Thursday, are expected to sign an agreement creating a transitional government before presidential elections in July. The deal seeks to end the political crisis sparked by last August's coup against Mauritania's first freely elected leader.
By signing the accord in Nouakchott, Sidi Ould Cheik Abdallahi formally resigns as president, 10 months after being toppled by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.
Abdallahi will lead the Government of National Unity that replaces Aziz's ruling military council until new elections July 18th.
As part of the deal negotiated in neighboring Senegal, Aziz names the transitional prime minister and 14 other ministers. The remaining 15 ministers - including Interior, Finance, and Information - are divided between the National Front for the Defense of Democracy, which backs Abdallahi, and the rival opposition Alliance of Democratic Forces.
Mouhamed Lemine Ould Haless leads the National Front. He says the power-sharing agreement is a victory for democracy that puts an end to military rule and rejects the use of force.
He says the military agreed to the plan because it understands that if Aziz won elections, which were originally scheduled for Saturday, neither Mauritanians nor the international community would recognize the result because of an opposition boycott.
"After the 6th, if they come to power elected, they will not be recognized by the interior and they will not be recognized by the international community," he said.
Ahmed Ould Dadah leads the Alliance of Democratic Forces.
Dadah told his supporters that the accord is a victory for the people of Mauritania, a victory of reason over violence, and a victory for patriotism. He says it is the start of the democracy that Mauritanians want.
Military rulers refused African Union demands to reinstate Abdallahi and instead changed the constitution to allow retired military to stand as political candidates.
Aziz then resigned his commission to run for president. With Saturday's election postponed, Mauritanian state radio says Aziz has suspended his campaign and announced his intention to contest the vote in July, which it says he intends to win.
African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra says there is still a lot of work ahead to make this deal work.
"It requires a lot of goodwill, a lot of good faith on the part of the stakeholders. We believe that consensus is the master word in reaching the agreement as well as in implementing it," Lamamra said.
Lamamra helped negotiate the deal, along with Senegal's foreign minister, in talks backed by the African Union, the Arab League, the European Union, the Fancophonie, and the United Nations.
"This has been a very, very important development in multi-lateral diplomacy, in the way that peaceful processes are being conducted. This solution to the crisis will also be very significant in terms of lessons learned, in terms of also commitment on the part of the international community to assist the Mauritanians to make peace and to deepen democracy," he said.
If no candidate reaches an absolute majority July 18th, the power-sharing agreement calls for a second round of balloting August 1st.