Page last updated at 23:38 GMT, Monday, 18 August 2008 00:38 UK

Mauritania coup chief holds rally

By James Copnall
BBC News, Nouakchott

Gen Muhammad Ould Abdelaziz
The general has not committed to a date for new elections

Thousands of people in Mauritania have attended a rally in support of the leader of the recent coup, Gen Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz.

The coup has also been backed by the majority of the country's politicians.

Organisers said thousands watched as the general promised to tackle corruption and extremism.

However, some voices inside the country, as well as most of the international community, have condemned the undemocratic change of government.

While the organisers' claim that more than 30,000 people cheered on Gen Abdelaziz was perhaps a slight exaggeration, this was still a large rally by Mauritanian standards.

Intellectuals and politicians have supported the coup - which happened earlier this month - either through a sense of opportunism, or because they disliked the former President, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi.

More than two thirds of the country's political parties, members of parliament and senators have voiced their support for Gen Abdelaziz.

The politicians were there in large numbers, while poorer Mauritanians received free transport to the stadium where the rally took place. Gen Abdelaziz gave a short speech.

He promised to honour the commitments he made in a recent televised address, notably to fight corruption and extremism - but again did not commit himself to a date for elections.

Map of Mauritania

The political parties opposed to the coup d'etat had intended to hold a march at the same time as the general's rally, but the authorities denied them permission at the last moment.

The opposition accuse the military of cracking down on liberties following the coup which has been denounced by the international community.

They also say people were bribed to attend the rally in support of Gen Abdelaziz, an accusation rejected by the organisers.

Al Jazeera Mauritanian coup leaders name PM - 7 hrs ago
ABC Online Mauritania junta names respected diplomat as PM - 13 hrs ago
CNN Mauritania's junta appoints prime minister - 21 hrs ago
Washington PostMauritania junta names ex-ambassador prime minister - 24 hrs ago
New StatesmanA welcome coup - 29 hrs ago
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