Togo re-amends constitution

Lome - Togo lawmakers on Monday re-amended the constitution to limit the mandate of the west African state's interim president to 60 days, overturning a change made to support the army installation of Faure Gnassingbe.

But the 81-member national assembly effectively corroborated Gnassingbe's decision to remain in power until elections, defying demands by African heads of state who imposed sanctions against his isolated regime at the weekend.

Deputies revised two constitutional articles they had changed on February 6 to rubberstamp the military power play that vaulted Gnassingbe into the presidency vacated by his father, the late Togo strongman Gnassingbe Eyadema, a lawmaker from the ruling Rally for the Togolese People (RPT) said.

"The deputies, working in committee, re-adopted the articles as they stood before they were revised, without amendment," he said.

Under the original terms of the Togolese constitution, the speaker of parliament was to succeed the president for an interim period of 60 days before new elections would be called.

By a 67-14 margin on February 6, lawmakers slotted Gnassingbe into the post of speaker - sacking RPT crony Fambare Natchaba Ouattara - and extended his term until 2008, when his father's elected term was to expire.

The international community, led by African heads of state, has heaped scorn on the Lome regime, blasting the turn of events as a military coup d'etat.

Sanctions were imposed at the weekend by the Economic Community of West African States, while the United States and other development partners have said they would re-evaluate their relations with the tiny republic.

Yielding somewhat to the international demands, Gnassingbe announced on Friday that elections would be held within the specified timeframe but under his supervision as president, which would ensure the continuity of the state. - Sapa-AFP

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