The African Union (AU) says it is working with the international community to bring more pressure on Mauritania's military junta to return the country to democracy despite the junta's refusal to abide by an AU ultimatum, which expired Monday. The military leaders said the ultimatum to restore democracy would not be in Mauritania's best interest. The African Union's demand for a return to constitutional rule is backed by the United States and the European Union, which have unanimously condemned the August 6 coup.

The African Union has also expressed concern about the wellbeing of the country's only democratically elected President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi who is being by the military junta under house arrest.

Commissioner Rantane Lamamra is the AU's special envoy who recently negotiated with Mauritania's new military Junta. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa that the African Union will not allow any member country to flout the AU charter.

"It is a process I think; it is not an end to the whole the story. The African Union is determined to pursue its action fully consistent with its own democratic doctrine. It is upheld by all our member states and supported by most of the international community and indeed supported as well by growing numbers of Mauritanians themselves. We wanted Mauritanians themselves to be assisted in every way we could to find a way to come back to democratic process through reconciliation, healing, accepting each other and abiding by the rule of law," Lamamra said.

He said there was need to restore the deposed democratically elected president.

"There is a legitimate president who has been elected democratically. The Mauritanian democratic experience was then universally hailed as exemplary for other nations, and we just want Mauritanians to remain a democratic nation and to eventually solve whatever differences there may exist between the political leaders through constitutional means," he said.

Lamamra said the African Union is concerned about the wellbeing of the deposed president who is currently being held against his will after he was overthrown on August 6.

"We are worried about the very fact that the elected president of the republic has been now deprived of his liberties for the last two months. And therefore we would not stop working very hard to make sure that the president is regaining his liberty as well as his office," Lamamra pointed out.

He said the African Union is working with international partners to ensure the problems in Mauritania are amicably resolved.

"Now, we are in the midst of consultations, intensive consultations with our partners and with the Mauritanians themselves as well as African leaders, European, and American partners. And we feel that dialogue is still available and our resources of diplomacy have not been exhausted as far as the legality is concerned," he said.

Lamamra said all options are available to the African union to exploit in order to ensure democracy is restored.

"The Peace and Security Council of the African Union has definitely stated that the situation cannot be upheld as it is, and therefore, everything should be brought to bear so that we can restore the democratic process," Lamamra noted.

He reiterated the African Union's willingness to work with its international partners to pressure the military junta to return Mauritania to constitutional rule.

"Very, very closely, but I cannot speak extensively on the details of the action about the consultations, which are going on, but I can just assure you that we are working very closely with all the partners (United States, European Union), the Arab League and others," he said.

Meanwhile, the country's military leadership is threatening to turn to Arab partners for aid and development funds if western donors slash their assistance to the country.

The United States and former colonial power France suspended some non-humanitarian aid in response to the coup and the World Bank froze millions of dollars of development lending.

The European Union, Washington and the African Union have threatened more sanctions against the coup leaders unless they release Mauritania's democratically elected president and restore him to office.