Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has called for three days of fasting and prayers for peace to return to the nation, which has suffered from recent ethnic clashes. The fasting coincides with President Obasanjo's fifth anniversary as head of state.

The presidential spokeswoman, Remi Oyo, says the days of fasting and prayers are meant to give thanks for the end of the violence that has raged in some of the central states. She says the violence in Plateau and Kano states is isolated, and that most Nigerians are peaceful.

"The truth of the matter is that we, in Nigeria, we love peace," she said. "And, this is what the president has said this week. It has shown him that the people of Nigeria indeed believe in democracy. They indeed believe in peace and living together. That tolerance that is needed for all of us to move forward to a greater Nigeria, these are the lessons that are being taught now."

Clashes between Christians and Muslims in Plateau and Kano states in central Nigeria escalated earlier this month, when Christian militia attacked the predominantly Muslim town of Yelwa in Plateau state.

In retaliation, Muslim militiamen in Kano attacked Christian communities, killing at least 40 people.

Since the end of military rule in 1999, an estimated 10,000 people have died in sectarian fighting.

Last week, President Obasanjo declared a state of emergency in Plateau, and removed the elected governor, replacing him with former military general Chris Ali.

President Obasanjo will begin fasting on the eve of his fifth anniversary as the head of state of Nigeria.