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Togo Postpones Legislative Elections

The government of the West African nation of Togo has announced it will postpone legislative elections that were to be held in October. The decision has provoked anger among opposition groups who accuse longtime President Gnassingbe Eyadema of trying to extend his mandate after 34 years.

The Togolese government is giving no date for the elections, which had been scheduled for October.

President Eyadema's Togolese People's Rally party currently controls the parliament, holding 79 out of the lawmaking body's 81 seats. Lawmakers now in office were elected in a 1999 poll that was boycotted by the opposition.

As part of an agreement reached between the government and the opposition last year, Mr. Eyadema promised to dissolve the parliament and hold new elections. Mr. Eyadema, Africa's longest serving head-of-state, also promised to step down in the year 2003 after serving the second and last term allowed by Togo's constitution.

In a statement Thursday, the country's Prime Minister Agbeyome Kodjo said he would support a move to amend the constitution to allow for Mr. Eyadema to serve yet another term.

The remarks drew an angry reaction from opposition activists like Hegbor Gahoun of the Renewal Action Committee party. "The statement by the Prime Minister is extremely grave," he said. "That would mean that the powers that be have every intention to keep Mr. Eyadema in power, when we believe that the true will of the people is to see change."

Political tension has been rising in Togo amid concerns that Mr. Eyadema may not be ready to leave office after 34 years in power.

On two occasions over the last four weeks, police have fired tear gas on demonstrators who were trying to hold rallies in the capital, Lome. Opposition parties are planning another demonstration in Lome on September 8.