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Nigerian Army Chief Rejects Coup Rumors

The Nigerian army chief has ruled out a possible military takeover, as Nigeria grapples with a new leadership crisis after the surprise return of ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua.

Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Abdulrahman Dambazzau has moved to reassure the 150 million Nigerians that the army has no intention of returning to politics, in the wake of concerns of a power struggle in Africa's most populous nation.

The intense debate and intrigue surrounding Mr. Yar'Adua's return have prompted fears of an army coup that might return Nigeria to the military dictatorship that existed before 1999.

General Dambazzau says a political solution remains the best option for Nigeria.

"It is a difficult period for everybody, but we believe that it is a political thing. We are not politicians. We are military professionals and we are determined to remain so. Nobody, no matter what no matter the effort, will drag us into it," he said.

President Umaru Yar'Adua returned to the country a week ago, after leaving for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, three months ago. The Nigerian leader has not been seen in public for more than three months and there have been no official reports on his health.

Indications are that he is too ill to govern, raising fears of a power struggle between his aides and acting President Goodluck Jonathan.

An Abuja-based lawyer has filed a legal action to force the ailing president to appear before the media and prove the state of his health.

Nigeria has a long history of coups and military leadership, and only returned to civilian rule about a decade ago.