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Nigerian Court Sides With Ailing President

Nigerian President Uamru Yar'Adua (file photo)

The Nigerian federal high court has rejected a lawsuit by the Nigerian Bar Association that would have forced ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua to transfer power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan.

The court ruled Friday that Mr. Yar'Adua is not required to write a letter to parliament informing the lawmakers about his extended absence from the country, something the Bar Association said he must do.

Under the constitution, the vice president temporarily takes over the president's duties, if such notification is given.

The issue before the court on Friday was whether the written notification was optional or mandatory. The court ruled President Yar'Adua was not legally required to write such a letter.

This is the second lawsuit by the Nigerian Bar Association, seeking to force Mr. Yar'Adua to delegate power to his deputy, until he returns to the country.

President Yar'Adua left Nigeria in late November to be treated for a heart condition in a Saudi hospital. He also suffers from a chronic kidney ailment.

Vice President Jonathan said Thursday the president will return to Nigeria soon, but he did not indicate when.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and European foreign ministers have pledged to support Nigeria as it faces what they call a "period of uncertainty" prompted by President Yar'Adua's prolonged illness.

Secretary Clinton signed a joint statement Thursday along with British Foreign Minister David Miliband, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, and European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, commending Nigeria's commitment to deal with the crisis through democratic institutions.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.