February 26, 2009 / 12:28 PM / 10 years ago

Gaddafi meets Mauritania junta leader on mediation

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has met Mauritanian junta chief Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz in a mediation bid to end the Saharan Islamic state’s political crisis after a coup, Libyan state media said on Thursday.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during the wreath-laying ceremony in Belarus, November 3, 2008. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

Abdel Aziz, a former head of the presidential guard, seized power in August and overthrew the country’s first democratically elected head of state in a bloodless military coup.

“Abdel Aziz expressed his regard and consideration to the leader (Gaddafi) for his role to achieve a comprehensive reconciliation and restore stability and peace in Mauritania,” Jana news agency reported after their meeting late on Wednesday.

Gaddafi, who holds the rotating presidency of the African Union (AU), had dispatched an emissary to Mauritania last week to meet top officials from the two sides of the political divide.

Early this month, the AU imposed sanctions on Mauritania that include travel restrictions on all military and civilian individuals linked to the junta in Nouakchott.

The European Union and United States have demanded that Abdel Aziz reinstate ousted President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who was released from house arrest in December.

But Abdel Aziz remains in power and has not ruled out standing in elections.

On Wednesday, Gaddafi blamed “foreign parties” for trying to blow up a “power struggle” in Mauritania into an international conflict.

“These parties must stop meddling in Africa’s internal affairs because they make crises worse. Africa is able to resolve its own problems,” Gaddafi told a meeting of U.N. and AU officials on cooperation between the two bodies.

The website of Libya Today newspaper reported that a representative of ousted president Abdallahi was due to join a Gaddafi-brokered dialogue with the junta. Libyan officials were not immediately available to comment on the report. (Writing by Lamine Ghanmi; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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