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Niger Opposition Rally Calls on Coup Leaders for Elections


Niger's opposition party has called on the country's new military rulers to set up elections, two days after soldiers seized power in a coup.

About 10,000 people gathered in the capital, Niamey, Saturday at a rally organized by the opposition to show support for the coup that ousted President Mamadou Tandja.

Members of the CFDR party handed a memorandum to the coup leaders calling for a return to constitutional order. The opposition said it is ready to help the army restore democracy in the uranium-rich country.

A member of the junta later spoke at the rally thanking the crowd for its support and said the army had acted "in the interests of the country." He did not make any mention of elections.

The international community has roundly condemned Thursday's coup.

On Friday, the African Union suspended Niger and demanded a return to constitutional order.

The European Union, and Niger's former colonial ruler, France, as well as the United Nations and South Africa have also called on the army to set up new elections and re-establish civilian rule.

In his first public appearance Friday, Niger's new military leader, Salou Djibo, promised to set up a consultative council for decision-making.

After initially dissolving the entire government, the military said government business will be handled by heads of ministries for the time being.

President Tandja had grown increasingly unpopular since changing the constitution last year to extend his rule in office.

When Niger's parliament and constitutional court said the referendum was illegal, President Tandja dismissed both and ruled by decree.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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