NOUAKCHOTT (AFP) — Around 30 MPs opposed to Mauritania's ruling junta boycotted the opening of the country's parliament on Monday, which was carried out amid heavy security outside the building.
The boycott followed a warning by the head of the five-party Front for the Defence of Democracy (FNDD), Mohamed Ould Moloud, who called the session "pointless and without an aim" in "the absence of a legal government and legitimate president."
Police deployed in front of the parliament building in Nouakchott and in the surrounding roads carried out checks as the sessions of both houses began.
Prominent parliamentarians who boycotted the session included the speaker of the national assembly, Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, who has been a strong critic of the ruling junta since its summer coup.
Mauritania's first democratically-elected president, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, was ousted on August 6 hours after he issued a decree firing the military's top brass, including junta leader General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.
The speaker's deputy Elarbi Ould Jedeine opened the session, primarily intended to pass the 2009 budget, saying he "strongly regretted" Boulkheir's repeated absence from parliament.
He also urged the people of Mauritania to hold a "constructive dialogue to avoid a situation in which they could not face the consequences."
Meanwhile, anti-putsch senators attended the parliament, including speaker Ba Mbare, who made no reference to the summer coup, although aides had told AFP beforehand he would open the session with "a harsh word against the junta."
Since the coup, the junta has taken over the powers of the president and formed a new government with the support of a majority of the deputies in parliament.
It has categorically refused international demands to reinstate Abdallahi and has failed to set a date for fresh elections.
The FNDD, which has organised protests and called for sanctions against the military rulers, accused the junta of dismantling the country's democratic pillars so it can take full control after a transitional period.
It also rejected General Aziz's plans for a temporary commission to establish democratic conditions ahead of a return to constitutional order.
During a meeting Monday at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, the international community renewed its call for the restoration of constitutional order in Mauritania.
"We hope for a significant and definitive change in the position of the junta, and a solution to the crisis in line with the Mauritanian constitution," AU peace and security commissioner Ramtane Lamamra said after the meeting.
The US envoy to the AU, John Simon, said Washington supports the "firm stance" of the African Union and other partners.
"We all hope that by the 20th of November we'll see some sort of improvements and resolution," he said, referring to a European Union deadline for the junta to restore constitutional rule or face sanctions.
"They are discovering that their action has not been accepted at all by the international community, and that it can have very serious consequences," Simon said.
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