The leader of the recent coup in Mauritania has called for a national gathering to decide the future of the country, including the date of new presidential elections.

General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz told VOA Thursday such a gathering could help restore constitutional order in the country following the August military coup that ousted President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi. 

Abdel Aziz said the gathering of Mauritanians should decide who would be eligible to run in elections to replace the deposed president.

Mauritanian generals overthrew the president on August 6 after he fired top army officers.  Mr. Cheikh Abdallahi was the west African nation's first democratically elected president.  He remains under house arrest.

General Abdel Aziz defended the coup, telling VOA it was necessary because Mr. Cheikh Abdallahi "mismanaged the economy" and was "lenient to terrorists." 

The African Union has called on the country's military leaders to reinstate the president or face increased isolation and possible sanctions.  Mauritania's military rulers have ignored the demand.

Much of the international community has condemned the coup but about three-fourths of the Mauritanian parliament signed a declaration supporting it.

The government has promised new elections.  But no date has been set for those polls.