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African Union drops Mauritania after coup

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Leaders of the African Union say they are ready to suspend Mauritania because of the recent overthrow of that country's democratically elected president.

The suspension would last until a constitutional government is restored, reported the BBC Saturday. Soldiers arrested President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi before he could fire key army officials. The coup has been condemned by most of the international community.

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"The coup is a serious setback for Mauritanians because it has robbed the people of their basic right to freely elect leaders of their own choice," said Tanzania's Foreign Minister Bernard Membe, who is also the AU's current president.

Coup leader Gen Muhammad Ould Abdelaziz has pledged to continue Mauritania's democratic institutions but has set no date for an election or for the release of Abdallahi from detention.

"We will not release the deposed president at the time being for security reasons. We are now trying to make calm prevail," he told the London-based daily newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.

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