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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 February, 2005, 16:57 GMT
Togo president promises elections
Faure Gnassingbe at his inauguration
Faure Gnassingbe is trusted by the powerful military
Togo's new leader Faure Gnassingbe, in his first address to the nation, has promised "free and transparent" elections "as soon as possible".

Mr Faure was installed as president on Monday after the constitution was hastily amended to allow him to take over and remain in office until 2008.

West Africa leaders are discussing the crisis in Togo after the death of his father President Gnassingbe Eyadema.

The regional body, Ecowas, has termed the handover of power unacceptable.

The African Union said it was considering imposing sanctions on Togo unless it restores "constitutional legality".

AU leader, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, is attending the Ecowas summit being held in Niger's capital, Niamey.

'Father's mission'

According to the BBC's Elizabeth Blunt, Mr Faure could not have been more conciliatory in his address, as he referred almost apologetically to the circumstances in which he had found himself president, attributing it to his father's sudden death on Saturday.

The expectation of many was that [Eyadema's] demise would open up a new chapter in the history of Togo
Mohamed Ibn Chambas
Ecowas Executive Secretary

"We want consensual discussions aimed at revising the electoral code to focus on the organisation of free and fair elections as soon as possible," he said on national television and radio.

Correspondents believe he was referring to parliamentary elections which were due this year.

After negotiations with the European Union (EU) last year, the late president promised to hold legislative elections under reforms intended to level the electoral playing field.

"Concrete measures will be taken in the near future - the 22 engagements reached on 14 April 2004 in Brussels are the fundamental guidelines for our conduct," Mr Faure said.

The EU froze aid to Togo in 1993 over the country's lack of democracy and poor human rights record.

The opposition has rejected Mr Faure's offer of elections.

While there was an illegal situation at the top, well-organised elections were not possible, Professor Leopold Gninivie from the Democratic Convention of African People told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

MPs passed a constitutional amendment the day after Eyadema's death which allowed Mr Faure to serve out his father's term as president - until June 2008.

Headache

Ecowas Executive Secretary Mohamed Ibn Chambas, who has just returned from a fact-finding visit to Togo, said the crisis there could affect the stability of the whole region.

File photograph of President Gnassingbe Eyadema from 2003
Gnassingbe Eyadema rose to power in a military coup
He said he had hoped that Eyadema's death would bring a "deepening of the democratic culture in Togo".

"The expectation of many was that his demise would open up a new chapter in the history of Togo... that remains the hope of many Togolese," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

Meanwhile, the second day of a general strike called by the opposition has been widely ignored, with most shops open.

FM transmissions in Lome by Radio France Internationale (RFI) have been stopped because the government was unhappy with their reporting of recent events.

Public rallies have been banned and a two-month period of national mourning declared for President Eyadema.

Eyadema, Africa's longest-serving ruler, died at the age of 69 while being evacuated for medical treatment abroad - reportedly from a heart attack.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
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