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Togo Faces Arms Embargo, Travel Ban on Its Leaders

Sunday, February 20, 2005; Page A32

LOME, Togo, Feb. 19 -- West African countries imposed sanctions on Togo Saturday, piling pressure on the country's new leader as thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand he step down.

Faure Gnassingbe was appointed president by Togo's powerful army after his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, Africa's longest-serving leader, died of a heart attack on Feb. 5. The constitution was then hastily amended to legitimize the move.

Foreign leaders called the appointment a coup and demanded that Togo revert to its original constitution, which called for the head of the national assembly to take over until elections could be held within 60 days.

Bowing to fierce international pressure, Gnassingbe promised Friday to hold elections in two months but indicated he would not step down before the vote.

The Economic Community of West African States said in a statement that Gnassingbe's declaration fell "far short of the expectations and demands" of its leaders.

The group suspended Togo from participating in its activities, imposed an arms embargo and a travel ban on its leaders, and recalled its ambassadors.

In the largest protest since Gnassingbe took over, at least 10,000 people marched through the opposition stronghold of Be in Togo's capital, Lome, on Saturday, demanding that he step down.

Foreign Minister Kokou Tozoun said that if Gnassingbe, 39, resigned, it would leave a dangerous vacuum.

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