updated 2/18/2005 6:26:19 PM ET 2005-02-18T23:26:19

Togo’s new military-installed leader promised Friday to hold presidential elections within two months, bowing to intense pressure at home and abroad to end his summary succession to power following the death of his dictator father.

“In the superior interests of the nation and of the country’s constitution, I promise to hold elections within 60 days, without delay,” President Faure Gnassingbe said on state TV.

Togo’s army had announced Gnassingbe’s appointment to power on Feb. 5, hours after the sudden death of his father, President Gnassingbe Eyadema, from a heart attack.

Eyadema, who held power for 38 years, had been the world’s longest-ruling leader after Cuba’s Fidel Castro, using troops and repressive rule to resist the wave of democracy that rolled across the rest of sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s.

The appointment of Gnassingbe, and subsequent retroactive amendment of the constitution to make the move technically legal, sparked European and U.S. condemnation, African warnings of sanctions, and deadly clashes between protesters and security forces.

Unknown if Gnassingbe will run
News of Gnassingbe’s concession came late Friday, and brought no immediate reaction in the dark streets of Lome, Togo’s capital.

Opposition parties had pledged to renew protests on Saturday against Gnassingbe’s succession, raising the prospect of more violence. Clashes last weekend killed four protesters by government count.

Gnassingbe, in a navy-blue suit, did not say whether he would remain in office until the vote, or whether he would run.

He thanked the African Union and a West Africa leaders’ bloc — whose most prominent member, military giant Nigeria, had led pressure on him to step aside.

Friday’s announcement came hours after Togo lifted a two-week-old ban on political activity. Togolese Security Minister Akila Esso-Boko said demonstrations and other events would again be permitted if plans are submitted first to the government. Still, it remained unclear whether the rallies, including the one planned for Saturday, would be considered legal.

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