Mauritanian junta unveils cabinet after coup
NOUAKCHOTT (Reuters) - Mauritania's military rulers, facing criticism at home and abroad of their August 6 coup, unveiled a new government on Monday nearly a month after taking power in the Saharan Islamic state.
The announcement of the 22-minister cabinet followed difficult negotiations with political parties and came in the face of widespread international condemnation of the bloodless overthrow of President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi.
The government named by the military High Council of State kept on four key ministers -- for Defence, Finance, Economy and Justice -- who had served under the deposed Abdallahi.
General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz's ruling junta also brought into the cabinet officials and technocrats who had worked in the transitional government under military control that handed over to civilian rule in 2007 after multi-party elections.
On August 14, the junta had named Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdaf, a respected former ambassador to Belgium and the European Union, as prime minister.
Although the coup has garnered some support in Mauritania's political establishment, the country's main opposition party, the Rally of Democratic Forces (RFD), and others have refused to participate in the new government. There have been some street protests against the junta.
Opponents have criticised it for failing to announce a clear timetable for elections and for not ruling out the possibility that its members might run in any future polls, a move strongly opposed by the international community.
The African Union has suspended Mauritania and major donors like France and the United States, which have viewed Mauritania as an ally in the fight against Islamist militants, have frozen some non-humanitarian aid.
They are calling for the release of Abdallahi, who has been in detention since the coup, and for the restoration of democratic civilian rule in the country which became Africa's newest oil producer in 2006.
The new oil and energy minister, Die Ould Zeine, is a former finance ministry official. The industry and mines portfolio went to Mohamed Abdellahi Ould Oudaa, who had previously run a private energy and water company.
Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, named foreign minister, was a university professor who had worked in the United States.
A separate decree named Mohamed Lemine Ould Guig, a former prime minister under authoritarian ex-President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, as secretary-general of the High State Council junta, a post with ministerial rank though not part of the prime minister's cabinet. Taya was toppled in a bloodless 2005 coup.
Some of the new team, including Mines Minister Oudaa, have links with the RFD opposition led by veteran politician Ahmed Ould Daddah. But in a statement just before the new government was announced, Daddah reiterated his party's position of not participating in the new administration.
"Any member of the party who agrees to participate in the government will be automatically considered as having resigned from the party," the statement said.
Coup leader Abdel Aziz has said Abdallahi was incapable of tackling the economic problems squeezing Mauritania's mostly poor inhabitants. Soaring food and fuel prices have triggered sporadic street riots in the West Saharan nation, which besides oil has rich fisheries stocks and iron ore and gold deposits.
(Writing by Pascal Fletcher, editing by Mark Trevelyan)
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