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Sao Tome Coup Leader, President Sign Accord - 2003-07-23

One week after soldiers staged a coup in the tiny island nation of Sao Tome and Principe, an accord to restore democracy to the islands has been signed by the coup leaders and the ousted president. The deal will restore President Fradique de Menezes to office as well as grant amnesty to the coup leaders.

The leader of the coup, Major Fernando Periera, and President Menezes have signed an accord that restores democracy and constitutional rule to the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe.

The agreement comes exactly one week after Major Periera staged a bloodless coup d'etat while President Menezes was visiting Nigeria.

Under the accord, President Menezes will be allowed to resume office. Mr. Menezes was in Nigeria for several days after the coup, but he traveled to nearby Gabon for the signing of the accord.

As part of the deal, the mutineers have been granted amnesty from prosecution. Major Periera did not travel to meet with President Menezes in Gabon but signed the same accord in Sao Tome.

The accord is being lauded as a triumph for regional negotiations. An international delegation, made up of representatives from Africa, Portugal and the United States, traveled to the region after the July 16 coup to facilitate talks between the ousted president and the coup leader.

Sao Tome and Principe is a tiny impoverished island state in the Gulf of Guinea. Major Periera has maintained that his motives for mounting the coup were to highlight the poverty in the country and the corruption of the government. Substantial oil finds in Sao Tome's territorial waters are expected to bring millions of dollars in to the country, but they have also raised political tensions.