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Togo Parliament Elects Eydema Son as New President

After his election as speaker of the 81-member assembly Sunday in Lome, Faure Gnassingbe made his first speech as Togo's new leader. He says there are many challenges facing Togo, and that he will need the support of all Togolese to ensure their welfare. He also said he supports democratic reforms.

Earlier, the parliament removed from office the former assembly speaker who was outside Togo, and also changed a constitutional provision requiring new presidential elections within 60 days. The revised provision says that in case of a president's incapacity to govern, his replacement will serve the full term.

Gnassingbe Eyadema who ruled Togo for 38 years died Saturday at the age of 69 after an apparent heart attack.

His 39-year-old son, the only active politician among his more than 50 sons and daughters, was picked by the military Saturday to the country's top post. He was previously a member of parliament and government minister.

Main opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio who lives in exile in Paris says he hopes there will be internal and external pressure put on Togo to hold free and fair elections soon, to dismantle what he calls a hereditary military coup. "Like all military coups, you have to find a solution to the problem. I don't think the international community will take kindly to another military coup in Togo and neither shall we. So internally and externally, there will be opposition to this arrangement and maybe we'll find a peaceful solution," he said.

A spokesman for the African Union told VOA late Sunday the 53-nation body will fight against what it also calls a coup.

The Economic Community of West African States, also denounced the the son's appointment as illegal and rushed a team of negotiators to Lome.

Gnassingbe Eyadema's sudden death came as Togolese authorities were trying to prove they were making democratic progress to free European Union aid money, ahead of scheduled April legislative elections.

The European Commission Sunday expressed grave concern. France, the former colonial power in Togo , called on the people to express themselves democratically. It put its troops in Togo and other neighboring countries on alert, but said so far calm has prevailed.

Togo's army has closed down land, sea and air borders, but some Togolese and immigrant Ghanaians said they had been able to leave the country on foot.