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US Works to Restore Democracy to Sao Tome and Principe - 2003-07-17


The State Department says the United States is working diplomatically to try to restore the democratically elected government in Sao Tome and Principe, where military officers seized power in a coup Wednesday.

The Bush administration has renewed its condemnation of the military action in Sao Tome and Principe, and says it is working diplomatically with African countries and Portugal, among others, in an effort to restore the ousted government of President Fradique de Menezes.

Diplomatic contacts are being led by U.S. ambassador to Gabon Kenneth Moorfield, who also has responsibility for Sao Tome and Principe and was visiting the tiny west African state for a belated U.S. Independence Day observance when the overthrow occurred.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Mr. Moorfield has been in contact with President Menezes, who was stranded in Nigeria by the military move, and other diplomats in the effort to restore constitutional order.

Under questioning, Mr. Boucher said the Bush administration has not yet made a formal determination that Wednesday's military action was a coup, requiring a cut off of U.S. aid to Sao Tome and Principe, but he said the facts of what happened are evident to all.

"Our position is based on the fact that there was a freely elected government that was overthrown by elements of the military, there were arrests of officials of a freely elected government by elements in the military and we strongly condemn that," he said. "We have urged a peaceful and non-violent resolution in Sao Tome, including the release of all hostages, and to allow the elected government to continue to function."

Mr. Boucher said U.S. aid to Sao Tome and Principe delivered this fiscal year amounted to about $450,000, most of it for a Pentagon-administered anti-malaria program.

But he said the potentially oil rich island state was to soon receive another $500,000 in military aid to upgrade coastal security and another 400 thousand for malaria control.

It was unclear how much of the aid the country stood to lose under an act of Congress barring non-humanitarian U.S. assistance to countries where military coups have occurred.

The State Department spokesman said it would be "very speculative" to say if the United States would support African military intervention to restore elected rule, which is reportedly under discussion within the African Union.

He said the U.S. emphasis now is on trying to achieve a peaceful restoration of the Menezes government.

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