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Djibouti asks opposition to refrain from rally

DJIBOUTI, Mar 24 – The Djibouti government Thursday asked opposition parties to "refrain" from holding a meeting they had planned for Friday to coincide with the start of the electoral campaign.

The Horn of Africa country will hold presidential elections, which the opposition plans to boycott, on April 8. The only two candidates are outgoing president Ismael Omar Guelleh and independent candidate Mohamed Warsama Ragueh, the former head of the Constitutional Council.

"Only candidates or parties fielding a candidate the Constitutional Council approves are allowed to take part in the electoral campaign," Interior Minister Yacin Elmi Bouh said in a statement addressed to opposition groupings Union for Democratic Change (UAD) and the Union of Democratic Movements (UMD).

"Neither of your groupings is fielding a candidate. The electoral period starts Friday 25 March, 2011. I would ask you to kindly refrain from holding this explanatory meeting."

The two opposition coalitions had informed the ministry they intended to hold a meeting in front of their headquarters on Avenue Nasser.

Guelleh has been in power since 1999. In April 2010 parliament voted a constitutional reform to allow him to run for a third six-year term.

Djibouti is strategically located where the Red Sea joins the Gulf of Aden. It hosts the only US military base in Africa and the largest overseas French army base.

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