OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Diplomats pressing Burkina Faso's military ruler to return the country to civilian rule said Wednesday they are seeking names of people who could serve as interim head of state until elections are held.
The announcement came after the presidents of Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana arrived in Burkina Faso for talks. The African Union has given the military a two-week deadline to hand over power or face sanctions that could cripple the landlocked, desperately poor country.
Already though at least one opposition leader has expressed doubt that progress could be made.
"We are coming to tell them that it is impossible to appoint a transition leader today," said Ablasse Ouedraogo.
Burkina Faso's president of 27 years, Blaise Compaore, stepped down Friday amid mounting opposition to his bid to seek yet another term in office. Compaore never identified a potential successor and his departure has created a power vacuum in which at least three people have tried to take over control of the country in the past week.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon backed the mediation effort by the three presidents and reiterated his call for "an inclusive dialogue" to continue, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
The U.N. chief encourages all parties to reach an agreement for a peaceful civilian-led transition as soon as possible, he said.
Dujarric said a joint mission of the African Union, U.N., and the regional bloc known as ECOWAS is continuing consultations with all parties and other forces "to ensure a democratic civilian-led transition in Burkina Faso." He said the mission "will continue its efforts to help resolve the crisis in line with the national constitution."
According to the country's constitution, the speaker of the parliament should be the one in charge until elections can be held, according to Roch Marc Christian Kabore, leader of an opposition political party.
Burkina Faso's military, however, has designated Lt. Col. Isaac Yacouba Zida as the transitional leader following the departure of Compaore.
The international community is ramping up pressure to try to avoid prolonged martial rule or further unrest in Burkina Faso, a country of relative stability in a volatile region marked by coups and power grabs.
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan, Senegal's President Macky Sall and Ghana's President John Dramani Mahama aimed to continue the discussions during their visit to the country.
Associated Press Writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations.