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African Union: Will Suspend Mauritania's Membership Due to Coup

The African Union says it will suspend Mauritania's membership until democracy is restored in the West African country.

AU chief Bernard Membe of Tanzania issued a statement Saturday condemning the military coup that overthrew Mauritania's democratically elected government.

Mauritanian coup leader Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is quoted by Reuters news agency saying the military will continue to detain deposed president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi for what he called security reasons.

Coup leaders said Friday an 11-man military junta would assume presidential powers until new elections are organized.

They also said they would appoint a new government and issue a constitutional decree formalizing the powers of what they call the "High State Council."

The United States, European Union and Arab League have all condemned Wednesday's coup.

On Thursday, the U.S. government suspended more than $22 million in non-humanitarian aid to Mauritania, while the EU has said the coup threatens more than $240 million in aid.

President Abdallahi's children have expressed concern about their father's safety and health. The ousted president has been in military custody since Wednesday.

The coup took place shortly after the Mauritanian president announced his intention to replace several top army generals.

On Thursday, at least one thousand people marched in Mauritania's capital, Nouakchott, in support of the coup. Riot police fired tear gas to break up a smaller protest by anti-coup demonstrators.

The military leaders have promised to hold "free and transparent" elections as soon as possible.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.