The African Union has suspended the membership of the Islamic republic of Mauritania after army officers seized power.
The apparently bloodless coup took place while President Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya was attending the funeral of King Fahd’s in Saudi Arabia. He is now in Niger and has refused to comment. Under AU rules, a country is automatically excluded if it brings about unconstitutional changes. The north west African state’s new leaders meanwhile have announced the dissolution of parliament in a statement broadcast on state radio. The “Military Council for Justice and Democracy” will rule for up to two years to end what it called the “totalitarian” regime of President Taya. The head of the council, Colonel Ely Ould Mohammed Vall, said they planned to strengthen democracy in the country. There were celebrations on the streets of the capital following the announcement but calm quickly returned to the city. President Taya had ruled since seizing powerful in a 1984 coup. He has won three elections since but angered many by shifting support from Iraq to Israel and the United States. The United Nations and Mauritania’s former colonial ruler, France, have both condemned the swift takeover.