Mauritanian president ready for dialogue with opposition
The president said the sense of national unity derived from Islam was Mauritanian society's "safety valve" against hatred and discrimination.
"We are always open and available for dialogue with the whole political spectrum, because we are convinced of the importance of everyone participating in the building of the nation," he said at the opening of the fifth annual Ancient Cities festival, held at the Unesco world heritage site Chinguetti, some 630 kilometres north of the capital, Nouakchott.
The president went on to describe the anti-slavery activists being held in the southern town of Rosso as "hatemongers". Officials have accused the group of "inciting violence and disrupting public order". One has been sentenced to death for "insulting" the Prophet.
|Abdel Aziz said his government respected human rights activists not out of fear of western human rights organisations.|
Abdel Aziz, who has been in power since 2009, stressed his government was following the path of democracy and respecting human rights activists "has not come out of fear from western human rights organisations".
His call for dialogue with the opposition comes a day after the National Forum for Democracy and Unity (FNDU), a collective of radical opposition groups, rejected the proposed schedule for senate elections - because it was not consulted about the timetable.
The cabinet issued a decree on Wednesday calling on the electoral commission to make arrangements for the elections of two-thirds of the seats in the senate, which will take place on March 15.
The FNDU accused the government of "forging ahead regardless and pursuing a unilateral policy in addressing national issues".
Political sources told al-Araby al-Jadeed that during the past few days, Abdel Aziz had met with representatives from some of the parties in the Coalition for Change, the main opposition group, and other groups that took part in the most recent parliamentary elections.
The leaders of the parties told Abdel Aziz they were prepared to participate in the senate elections.
Observers expect the FNDU to boycott the senate elections. According to the Mauritanian constitution, it is the municipal councillors that elect the senate, a practice the FNDU disagrees with. The majority of FNDU parties - with the notable exception of the Islamic Tewassoul party - also boycotted the last parliamentary and municipal elections.
This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.