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Parties sign deal to defuse political crisis

Togo's political parties on Thursday signed a framework agreement to defuse a prolonged political crisis that came to a head in June 1998 with President Gnassingbe Eyadema's disputed re-election, news organisations reported.

The agreement noted decisions by Eyadema not to seek another term and to rerun the March 1999 parliamentary elections - boycotted by the opposition - in March 2000, according to the Republic of Togo web site. Eyadema, who seized power in 1967, announced on 23 July that he would not seek re-election when his term expires in 2003.

Thursday's agreement, that capped 10 days of talks between the ruling Rassemblement du Peuple togolais (RPT) and the opposition, provides for the creation of an independent national electoral commission and mechanisms to complete Togo's transition to democracy, which began in the early 1990s.

AFP quoted Gilchrist Olympio, head of the Union des Forces du Changement (UFC) as saying that the pact was a good start but that "there are shady areas and specific issues to be settled".

Olympio, who maintains that he won the 1998 presidentials, told AFP the first question the UFC would lay before a follow-up committee made up of opposition and ruling party representatives would be "the date of legislative and presidential elections".

Thursday's agreement notes the disagreement between the parties on the 1998 presidential poll. It said "the parties to the dialogue have agreed to transcend the past and look toward the future".

However, Olympio said there was no question of agreeing to Eyadema's finishing his term of office and he insisted on a re run of the 1998 presidential election.

The European Union has conditioned any resumption of its aid to Togo, suspended in 1993, on the settlement of the political crisis.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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