The Obama administration is criticizing Mauritania's military
government for preventing the nation's deposed president from meeting
with foreign diplomats to discuss plans for a return to democracy. Mauritania's first
freely-elected leader was toppled in a military coup last August.
U.S. State Department says Mauritania's military blocking of President
Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheik Abdellahi shows that he is still being denied
basic rights of movement and association and that his personal security
may be at risk.
Mauritanian security forces Thursday stopped
President Abdellahi's convoy at the village of Wad Naga, about 50
kilometers from Nouakchott. After searching his vehicle and asking for
his driver's license, they informed him that he alone would be allowed
to continue on to the capital without his convoy of supporters, family
members, and parliamentarians.
Mr. Abdellahi's spokesman Ahmed
Ould Sanbe says police told the toppled president that they did not
object to his visiting the capital as a private citizen but they would
not permit him to return in a manner befitting a head of state.
says security forces ordered that only one car from the motorcade would
be allowed to leave for the capital each hour. President Abdellahi
refused. After four hours in Wad Naga, the motorcade returned to his
hometown of Lemden, more than 200 kilometers away.
This was Mr.
Abdellahi's first attempt to return to the capital since he was
released from house arrest last month. He had invited foreign diplomats
to his home in Nouakchott to outline what Sanbe says are his proposals
for resolving Mauritania's political crisis.
his home in the capital and disrupted plans for a welcoming ceremony at
the home of the National Assembly speaker outside Nouakchott.
General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz toppled the Abdellahi government last August after the president tried to fire him.
Aziz has since organized a political forum to recommend changing the
constitution to permit the military to run for office in elections now
scheduled for June. The general says allowing members of the military
to stand as candidates after resigning their commission reflects what
he calls Mauritania's "new political and cultural reality."
Abdellahi and nearly one-third of parliament boycotted the political
forum and oppose new elections. As Mauritania's first freely-elected
leader, Mr. Abdellahi says he intends to return to power.
Aziz is trying to avoid additional international sanctions that
followed his take-over. The United States issued travel restrictions on
the coup leaders. Washington blocked $15 million in military
cooperation, more than $4 million in peacekeeping training,
and $3 million in development assistance.
European Union is threatening to withhold $230 million in development
funding. The African Union has suspended Mauritania and is working with
the European Union, the United States, the Arab League, and the Islamic
Conference to sanction Mauritania's military rulers.
first public comments on the political crisis in Mauritania, the Obama
administration called on the military government to allow President
Abdellahi's full participation in the political process, to assure his
freedom of movement and association, and to guarantee his personal
In a written statement, the new administration said the
regime's plans to organize "unconstitutional elections along with its
attempts to silence President Abdellahi and his supporters violate
democratic norms." The State Department called for an immediate return
to constitutional order in Mauritania.