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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July, 2003, 18:29 GMT 19:29 UK
Sao Tome president 'may return'
President Fradique de Menezes
De Menezes was in Nigeria when the coup took place
The crisis caused by the army takeover in Sao Tome and Principe is expected to be resolved by the end of the week, coup leader Major Fernando Pereira has said.

The deposed president, Fradique de Menezes, would be able to return home as soon as agreement was reached with international mediators who have been holding talks with the coup leaders, Major Pereira said.

Mr Menezes, who was in Nigeria when the coup took place last week, earlier set out conditions for his return to Sao Tome.

They included the return of the army to their barracks and the restoration of constitutional order.

The coup leader had earlier refused to allow Mr de Menezes back into Sao Tome, accusing his government of corruption and failing to end inequality.

He said the release of the ministers was a confidence-building measure ahead of the talks, but they remain under house arrest, according to a statement from the ruling junta.

Prime Minister Maria das Neves is still in hospital under military surveillance, according to the Associated Press news agency.

The released ministers "cannot exert any pressure" on discussions about the country's future, the coup leaders said.

Nor will they be "automatically returned to power".

Crude curse?

"There has been good progress on confidence building and this afternoon we're going to talk about the means and the conditions for the return of the president," one of the mediators said during a break from talks on Monday.

The mediators includes officials from Portuguese-speaking countries - Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde and Portugal - as well as Gabon, Nigeria, Congo, and the United States.

Sao Tome has one of the world's highest foreign debts
The auctioning of oil permits in 2004 is due to net $100 million
Sao Tome will receive 40% and Nigeria 60% of eventual oil revenue

The coup leaders say they want to fight poverty in the oil-rich archipelago, which has a population of only 170,000.

An army takeover in 1995 was ended after a week, when Angolan mediators convinced the military to return to barracks.

Wednesday's coup drew condemnation from the African Union, the UN and the US.

Sao Tome and Principe, which is thought to have large oil reserves, agreed to share oil rights in the Gulf of Guinea with Nigeria earlier this year.

The airport was reopened to international flights on Thursday following a phone conversation between the coup leader and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Sao Tome coup condemned
17 Jul 03  |  Africa
The Sao Tome coup-makers
17 Jul 03  |  Africa
Oil key to Sao Tome
16 Jul 03  |  Africa
Country profile: Sao Tome and Principe
27 May 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Sao Tome and Principe
16 Jul 03  |  Country profiles
Profile: Sao Tome coup leader
20 Jul 03  |  Africa


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