NOUAKCHOTT (Reuters) - Mauritania's main opposition parties announced on Sunday they would boycott a scheduled June 21 presidential election, in a move that threatens to undermine the legitimacy of the polls.
The Forum for Democracy and Unity (FDU), a coalition that has long disputed President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz's right to rule the West African nation, accused the government of failing to seek its consent before setting the election date.
"It was decided in a unilateral manner, which removes any guarantee of transparency, honesty and credibility," the FDU said in a statement that called on other "patriotic forces" to boycott the election.
Abdel Aziz, who came to power in an army coup in 2008, won an election the following year.
Ten opposition parties boycotted legislative and municipal elections in December, accusing the government of rigging the polls which were won by Abdel Aziz's Union for the Republic (UPR). [ID:nL6N0K10Q5]
In an attempt to secure their participation in the presidential poll, Abdel Aziz's allies held talks with the FDU last month but failed to reach agreement. The FDU said in its statement on Sunday it remained open to negotiations.
"We regret the position of the opposition," said one member of the presidential majority who took part in the talks.
"Everything remains negotiable. There are no taboo subjects or red lines, and we are ready to restart dialogue at any moment," he said, asking not to be named.
Mauritania, a country of 3.2 million people straddling Africa's restless Sahel region, is one of the West's key regional allies in the fight against al Qaeda.
It has reserves of iron ore, copper and gold and is seeking to encourage exploration in its offshore oil and gas sector.