Mon, Feb 21, 2005 - Page 6 News List

West Africa's leaders approve sanctions for Togo

PRESSURE TACTICS The sanctions include a ban on travel and arms sales as opposition forces meanwhile vowed to continue demonstrations


Togo's new military-installed leader was under intense pressure yesterday to step down, a day after west African leaders imposed sanctions and the US said it did not recognize his regime.

Faure Gnassingbe, the 39-year-old son of the late president Gnassingbe Eyadema, had sought to deflect international anger over his ascent to power on his father's death by promising to hold presidential elections which would confirm or overturn his rule within 60 days.

But yesterday he appeared increasingly isolated after his regional neighbors in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed sanctions in a move backed by Washington, and as the UN urged new efforts to resolve the crisis.

The sanctions announced on Saturday included a regional travel ban on Togolese officials, the recall of west African ambassadors and a complete arms embargo, ECOWAS said.

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that Washington supported the ECOWAS decision.

"The United States does not accept as legitimate the designation of Gnassingbe as interim president and calls on him to step aside immediately," Boucher said in a statement.

He said the United States had ended all military assistance to Togo and "we are reviewing all aspects of our relations with Togo in order to identify further means of supporting the actions of ECOWAS."

In New York a spokesman for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Saturday called for renewed efforts to resolve the crisis and restore constitutional order.

"The secretary general is concerned that talks between ECOWAS and the Togolese authorities on the country's constitutional crisis have not advanced," the spokesman said.

The slap from Washington and from Togo's neighbors and former allies came as 25,000 opposition supporters demonstrated in the Togolose capital Lome against Gnassingbe's rule, the biggest such march since he was installed in power on Feb. 7.

Gnassingbe's father, former president Gnassingbe Eyadema, died on Feb. 5 after 38 years of iron-fisted rule over his tiny and poverty-stricken nation. The military immediately moved to install his son as his successor, brushing aside Togo's 1992 constitution, which was amended in 2002.

This move sparked outrage around an African continent desperate to put behind it five decades of military coups, civil wars and dictatorial rule.

On Friday, after a series of meetings with ECOWAS officials, Gnassingbe vowed to hold elections, but stopped short of handing over power in the run-up to polling day to the speaker of parliament, as demanded by both ECOWAS and Togo's Constitution.

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