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Delegation Seeks to Restore Constitutional Rule in Sao Tome and Principe - 2003-07-20

A delegation from African and Portuguese-speaking countries has traveled to the tiny island nation of Sao Tome and Principe, where the president, Fradique de Menezes, was toppled in a bloodless coup four days ago.

The 12-member delegation hopes to help restore constitutional rule to Sao Tome after a bloodless coup last Wednesday.

Coup leader Major Fernando Pereira says he and a dozen other military men representing the junta will meet with the international delegation.

Major Pereira says his first priority is to restore calm to the tiny island nation. Residents of the islands have been urged to return to work and Sao Tome's international airport has been reopened. But only one of seven government ministers detained by the coup-makers has been released.

Ousted president de Menezes was in Nigeria at the time of the coup and junta leaders have not allowed him to return. Nigeria is among the countries that have sent delegates to Sao Tome.

The possibility of Nigerian intervention to restore Mr. Menezes to office has been mentioned, but both the ousted president and the coup leader say they prefer a negotiated solution.

Sao Tome and Principe is a poor nation made up of two small islands in the Gulf of Guinea. The country was until recently dependent on the fluctuating price of its key commodity, cocoa. But substantial oil finds have changed the country's fortunes as well as raised political tensions.