Mauritania coup: Full statement
Following the coup in Mauritania, a group calling itself The Military Council for Justice and Democracy issued the following statement on the state news agency Ami:

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Gracious.

The national armed forces and security forces have unanimously decided to put a definitive end to the oppressive activities of the defunct authority, which our people have suffered from during the past years.

These activities have led to a severe deviation which has begun to threaten the future of our nation.

The national armed forces and security forces have decided to institute a Military Council for Justice and Democracy.

This council is committed before the Mauritanian people to create the appropriate circumstances for an open and transparent democracy.

This will enable the civil society and all political activists to participate with complete freedom.

Our armed forces and security forces will not rule for longer than the necessary period required to prepare and create the genuine democratic institutions.

This period will not exceed two years at the most.

The council finally confirms Mauritania's commitment to all the international treaties and agreements which it has signed.
President diverts to Niger after coup in Mauritania
(Filed: 04/08/2005)

A West African country seen as vital to the struggle against terrorism was cast into turmoil yesterday when dissident army officers claimed to have overthrown its president.

Shots were heard near the presidential palace in Mauritania's capital, Nouakchott, and troops occupied radio and television stations.

President Maaouiya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya had been in Riyadh for the funeral of King Fahd and the coup took place as he was travelling home. His plane was diverted to Niger.

Officers calling themselves the Military Council for Justice and Democracy claimed to have seized power. They said: "The armed forces and security forces have unanimously decided to put a definitive end to the totalitarian activities of the defunct regime under which our people have suffered so much over recent years."

Mr Taya seized power in a coup in 1984 and has survived at least three attempts to oust him over the last two years.

He has risked unpopularity in his largely Muslim country by allying Mauritania with America.

Mr Taya also established diplomatic relations with Israel, one of only three Arab leaders to do so.


Jubilant Mauritanians celebrate end of Taya's rule
Wed Aug 3, 2005 6:54 PM ET
© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

By Ibrahima Sylla

NOUAKCHOTT (Reuters) - Jubilant Mauritanians celebrated the overthrow of the country's president of two decades by military leaders who quickly announced they planned to rule for up to two years.

Hundreds of people took to the streets to shout and honk car horns in celebration at the coup against President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, who was out of the country at the time. The rally reflected frustration at what opponents called his repressive rule.

Mauritanians awaited signs on Thursday of what to expect next from a group of officers who said they seized power on Wednesday to end more than two decades of "totalitarian" rule by Taya, promising to rule for up to two years.

"The situation had reached a point where there had to be change," said Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla, a former military ruler and Taya's main challenger in 2003 elections.

"I'm sure that any change in these circumstances will be welcomed by the people," said Haidalla, who has been arrested several times on charges of plotting to oust Taya.

The overthrow was announced in a statement broadcast on state media and signed by a "Military Council for Justice and Democracy."

State radio later said the council would be headed by Colonel Ely Ould Mohammad Vall.

The African Union and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan both condemned the seizure of power by force in Mauritania, which hopes to start pumping oil next year.

The United States demanded that Taya be restored to power.

We "join the African Union in condemning the violence in Mauritania. And we call for a peaceful return for order under the constitution and the established government of President Taya," State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters.
Mauritania has witnessed a series of uprisings and attempted military coups in recent years.
Taya, who first seized power in a 1984 putsch, has angered many Arabs in the country by shifting support from former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to Israel and Washington in the 1990s.

Taya, who was in Saudi Arabia for King Fahd's funeral on Tuesday, landed in Niger's capital hours after news of troop movements in Nouakchott. His PRDS party denounced the coup.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties during the coup, although gunfire rang out briefly near the presidency building on Wednesday and the airport was closed.

Mauritania, an Islamic Republic, is one of only three Arab League member states that have diplomatic ties with Israel. It is also considered one of the most repressive countries in the region toward Islamist movements.

Troops nearly toppled Taya in 2003 during two days of fighting in Nouakchott, before loyalists prevailed. The government says it foiled two coup bids in 2004.