www.chinaview.cn 2004-03-13 04:19:39

Sao Tome president denies allegation of dissolving parliament

Xinhua, 13 March 2004

LUANDA, March 12 (Xinhuanet)—Sao Tome President Fradique de Menezes has denied the allegation that he intends to dissolve the parliament and call early elections to resolve Sao Tome and Principe's festering government crisis.

It is not my intention to dissolve the National Assembly, de Menezes said on Thursday night, shortly before meeting with Prime Minister Maria das Neves, according to a report reaching here on Friday from Sao Tome.

He added the country must find an exit from the week-long crisis and there would be a government whether my Democratic Movement Forces for Change (MDFM) party is in power or in opposition.

His meeting with Prime Minister das Neves, who wants to fire two senior MDFM ministers from her coalition cabinet, was part of a series of consultations with the islands' parties in search of asolution for the government crisis.

On Wednesday, de Menezes said he had frozen the reshuffle proposed by das Neves a day earlier. I'll keep (das Neves') letter ... but the prime minister must first talk to the political parties about the requested cabinet changes, he said.

The Sao Tome government crisis broke last week when das Neves renounced accords signed or under negotiation by the ministers of natural resources and foreign affairs, both members of the MDFM, the second-ranked force in her three-party cabinet.

She said the two accords had been negotiated without her knowledge, amounting to a breach of trust, and has demanded the resignations of Natural Resources Minister Tome Vera Cruz, who hadsigned an oil exploration accord with a foreign company, and Foreign Minister Mateus Meira Rita, who was preparing to sign an air transport agreement with Angola in Luanda.

The two ministers are senior members of MDFM, which is closely allied to de Menezes, while the prime minister belongs to the biggest government party—Sao Tome and Principe Liberation Movement ( MLSTP).

Complicating the crisis, two other MDFM cabinet members, the ministers of justice and health, submitted their resignations in solidarity with their party colleagues.

Sao Tome President De Menezes has sought to defend Vera Cruz and Meira Rita, saying they had committed procedural errors but had acted in good faith.