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Mauritanian Military to Proceed With Polls Despite Opposition

The leader of Mauritania's military government has confirmed his intention to proceed with presidential elections in June. The plan has raised concern among the political parties that formed the government before the coup.

General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz said Saturday the military would proceed with the plan for presidential elections on June 6, saying the polls would be free and fair, and open to all.

Speaking at a rally in his native city of Akjoujt , General Aziz said Mauritanians have the duty to register and to vote for the candidate they feel will best lead the country forward.

General Aziz said Mauritanian politicians calling for further sanctions against the country have already caused chaos and disorder, and now wish to worsen the crisis by starving the citizens of the West African nation.

In response to the military ruler's plan, a spokesman for deposed president Sidi Mohamed Ould Sheikh Abdallahi called for the restoration of democracy.

Mauritanian politicians have urged the African Union to maintain travel sanctions and an asset freeze levied against the military government.

AU chair Moammar Gadhafi, who was in Mauritania for talks aimed at resolving the crisis, said would recommend the AU sanctions be lifted. Talks fell apart Thursday, with Mr. Gadhafi accused by politicians of siding with the coup leaders.

Mr. Abdallahi, who is still constitutionally president, is urging the international community to enact further sanctions. He is joined by Mauritania 's main political parties.

Mohamed Mahmoude Ould Lematte, spokesman for the main opposition party, says a consensus among the parties needs to be reached before elections can take place.

The politicians that oppose the plan say elections organized by the junta cannot be free and fair. They also object to the intention to open the elections to all.

A Mauritanian law prevents members of the military from running for office. Unless changed, that law would leave General Aziz, who is widely believed to be planning a bid for the presidency, out of the running.