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A West African Power Grab


A bad situation is getting worse in Mauritania, where senior army generals last month overthrew and arrested the legally elected president and set themselves up as a ruling High State Council. When the junta grabbed both power and President Sidi Ould Sheik Abdallahi, it said it would hold elections to restore legitimate rule. Instead, it has named a government cabinet and announced plans to try Mr. Abdallahi on charges of corruption and obstruction of parliament.

With the president's election last year, Mauritania was poised to make social and political progress denied it under previous authoritarian rule. That promise, however, is now in tatters as the nation is dragged back into autocracy.

Along with others in the international community, the United States strongly condemns the junta and does not recognize its legitimacy. With an illegal government holding sway in Nouakchott, most U.S. aid there has been ended and sanctions against military and civilian leaders working with the junta are being studied.

There are still ways to work out a political solution to the crisis. An important first step would be to free Mr. Abdallahi and others in his government, and restore the constitution now.
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