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Comoros' troubled island expects poll within 3 months

MORONI (Reuters) - Comoros’ Anjouan island expects to organize democratic elections within three months, its interim leader said on Wednesday, a week after his predecessor was ousted in an African Union-backed offensive.

Comoros commandos patrol the streets of Anjouans island March 26, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer

Former president of Anjouan’s appeals court, Lailizamane Abdou Cheik, was sworn in as the tiny, wooded island’s interim leader on Monday to replace Mohamed Bacar.

Bacar, a French-trained former gendarme, seized power in 2001 and clung on after an illegal election last year before being toppled by troops from the Comoros and the AU.

“Our main mission is to manage to organize presidential elections on the island in a manner that is free and transparent,” Cheik said by telephone.

“We have a deadline of three months,” he added.

With its history of assassinations, mercenary invasions and 20 or so coups and attempted rebellions since independence from France in 1975, Comoros is still struggling to establish political stability.

The spice and perfume-producing Indian Ocean archipelago is one of the world’s most indebted nations, with most of its 700,000 people living on less than $1 a day.

In recent months, however, Comoros has received investment pledges worth tens of millions of dollars from investors in Kuwait and Dubai.

Lying off Africa’s east coast, the islands -- which grow ylang-ylang, vanilla and cloves -- were first settled by Arab seafarers 1,000 years ago, then later became a pirate haven.

(Reporting by Ahmed Ali Amir in Moroni and Ed Harris in Port Louis; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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