Army clears protesters, fires warning shots in Burkina Faso

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Burkina Faso Military Breaks Up Demonstrations

By Nadoun Coulibaly and Joe Penney

(Reuters) - Burkina Faso's army cleared thousands of protesters from the capital and opened fire at state TV headquarters on Sunday, killing one person, as it sought to restore order following the resignation of President Blaise Compaore two days ago.

Compaore's 27 years in charge of the landlocked former French colony ended abruptly on Friday after two days of mass protests aimed at thwarting his bid to change the constitution to extend his rule.

The army then selected Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida as transitional leader, overriding an earlier claim by the army chief of staff.

But on Sunday there were signs of discontent with the appointment as thousands gathered in the capital Ouagadougou to demand a return to civilian rule, in line with the West African country's constitution.

Witnesses said prominent opposition leader Saran Sereme and an army general, along with a crowd of their supporters, headed to the RTB Television site on Sunday afternoon to declare themselves in charge of the transition but were thwarted by the army. Sereme denied this on local news website Burkina 24, saying she was brought to the station by force.

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Army clears protesters, fires warning shots in Burkina Faso
People gather near a government building as they await the announcement of a new interim leader in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. An army general stepped into the vacuum left in Burkina Faso on Friday by the resignation President Blaise Compaore, who ended his 27-year reign under pressure from violent protests. (AP Photo/Theo Renaut)
In this photo taken Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, protesters shout out as they go on a rampage near the parliament building in Burkina Faso as people protest against their longtime President Blaise Compaore who seeks another term, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Protesters stormed the parliament Thursday, dragging furniture and computers onto the street and setting the main chamber ablaze, in the most significant challenge to the president’s rule during his 27 years in power. (AP Photo/Theo Renaut)
People gather near a government building as they await the announcement of a new interim leader in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. An army general stepped into the vacuum left in Burkina Faso on Friday by the resignation President Blaise Compaore, who ended his 27-year reign under pressure from violent protests. (AP Photo/Theo Renaut)
People gather near a government building as they await the announcement of a new interim leader in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. An army general stepped into the vacuum left in Burkina Faso on Friday by the resignation President Blaise Compaore, who ended his 27-year reign under pressure from violent protests. (AP Photo/Theo Renaut)
FILE - In this file photo Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014, Burkina Faso Police clash with protesters as they protest against their longtime president that seeks another term in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Protesters stormed Burkina Faso's parliament Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, dragging furniture and computers onto the street and setting the main chamber ablaze, in the most significant challenge to the president's rule during his 27 years in power. (AP Photo/Theo Renaut, File)
Burkinese Lieutenant-Colonel and interim leader Isaac Zida (C) chairs a meeting between the army and opposition leaders in Ouagadougou on November 2, 2014. Zida, named Burkina Faso's interim leader by the army after the deposing of the long-serving president last week, held talks with opposition leaders but no details about the discussions taking place in central Ouagadougou have been disclosed. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
An opposition supporters shouts during a protest at the Place de la Nation in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou, on November 2, 2014, calling for the departure of the military. UN envoy for west Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas called for a civilian transition in Burkina Faso after the ouster of president Blaise Compaore, threatening sanctions if the military holds on to power in the west African country. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
A man holds up a placard that reads in French, 'Zida get out', referring to Isaac Zida, a high-ranking officer named by the military to lead the country's transition, during a protest at the Place de la Nation in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou, on November 2, 2014, calling for the departure of the military. UN envoy for west Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas called for a civilian transition in Burkina Faso after the ouster of president Blaise Compaore, threatening sanctions if the military holds on to power in the west African country. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
People protest at the Place de la Nation in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou, on November 2, 2014, calling for the departure of the military. UN envoy for west Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas called for a civilian transition in Burkina Faso after the ouster of president Blaise Compaore, threatening sanctions if the military holds on to power in the west African country. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters pose with a police shield outside the parliament in Ouagadougou on October 30, 2014 as cars and documents burn outside. Hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament on October 30 before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Cars and documents burn outside the parliament in Ouagadougou on October 30, 2014. Hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament on October 30 before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Burkina Faso troops shoot in the air to try to disperse protesters outside the parliament in Ouagadougou on October 30, 2014 as cars and documents burn. Hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament on October 30 before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters stand outside the parliament in Ouagadougou on October 30, 2014 as cars and documents burn outside. Hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament on October 30 before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters stand outside the parliament in Ouagadougou on October 30, 2014 as cars and documents burn outside. Hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament on October 30 before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters stand outside the parliament in Ouagadougou on October 30, 2014 as cars and documents burn outside. Hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament on October 30 before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Documents thrown by protesters fly outside the parliament in Ouagadougou on October 30, 2014 as cars and documents burn. Hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament on October 30 before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Burkina Faso troops stand outside the parliament in Ouagadougou on October 30, 2014 as cars and documents burn. Hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament on October 30 before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Burkina Faso troops try to disperse protesters in Ouagadougou on October 30, 2014 as hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
A car burns near the parliament building in Ouagadougou on October 30, 2014. Hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament on October 30 before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
A protester holds a white cloth as cars and documents burn outside the parliament in Ouagadougou on October 30, 2014. Hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament on October 30 before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
People stand in front of smoke rising from the Burkina Faso's Parliament, where demonstrators set cars on fire parked in a courtyard of the Parliament, on October 30, 2014 in Ouagadougou, as they protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building in the capital Ouagadougou ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament, according to AFP correspondents. Protesters ransacked offices, setting fire to documents and stealing computer equipment, and set fire to cars outside. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
People stand in front of smoke rising from the Burkina Faso's Parliament, where demonstrators set cars on fire parked in a courtyard of the Parliament, on October 30, 2014 in Ouagadougou, as they protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building in the capital Ouagadougou ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament, according to AFP correspondents. Protesters ransacked offices, setting fire to documents and stealing computer equipment, and set fire to cars outside. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
A man stands in front of a burning car, near the Burkina Faso's Parliament where demonstrators set cars on fire parked, on October 30, 2014 in Ouagadougou, as they protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building in the capital Ouagadougou ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament, according to AFP correspondents. Protesters ransacked offices, setting fire to documents and stealing computer equipment, and set fire to cars outside. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
A car burns outside the parliament building in Burkina Faso as people protest against their longtime president Blaise Compaore who is seeking another term in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014. Protesters stormed Burkina Faso’s parliament Thursday, dragging furniture and computers onto the street and setting the main chamber ablaze, in the most significant challenge to the president’s rule during his 27 years in power.(AP Photo/Theo Renaut)
Cars burn outside the parliament building in Burkina Faso as people protest against their longtime president Blaise Compaore whho seeks another term in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014. Protesters stormed Burkina Faso’s parliament Thursday, dragging furniture and computers onto the street and setting the main chamber ablaze, in the most significant challenge to the president’s rule during his 27 years in power.(AP Photo/Theo Renaut)
A protestor walks past a pool as protestors ransack the Azalai Hotel in Burkina Faso as people protest against their longtime president Blaise Compaore who is seeking another term in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014. Protesters stormed Burkina Faso’s parliament Thursday, dragging furniture and computers onto the street and setting the main chamber ablaze, in the most significant challenge to the president’s rule during his 27 years in power.(AP Photo/Theo Renaut)
A car burns outside the parliament building in Burkina Faso as people protest against their longtime President Blaise Compaore who seeks another term in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014. Protesters stormed Burkina Faso’s parliament Thursday, dragging furniture and computers onto the street and setting the main chamber ablaze, in the most significant challenge to the president’s rule during his 27 years in power.(AP Photo/Theo Renaut)
A boy attends a rally to support demonstrations in Burkina Faso, in Paris, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014. Protesters stormed Burkina Faso's parliament and set its main chamber ablaze Thursday in the most significant challenge ever to the president's 27-year rule in one of the world's poorest countries. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A man holds a placard reading "Don't touch my constitution" during a rally to support demonstrations in Burkina Faso, in Paris, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014. Protesters stormed Burkina Faso's parliament and set its main chamber ablaze Thursday in the most significant challenge ever to the president's 27-year rule in one of the world's poorest countries. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A man holds a placard reading "Blaise get out", a reference to Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, during a rally to support demonstrations in Burkina Faso, in Paris, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014. Protesters stormed Burkina Faso's parliament and set its main chamber ablaze Thursday in the most significant challenge ever to the president's 27-year rule in one of the world's poorest countries. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Troops face protestors on October 30, 2014 in Ouagadougou. Hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
A deputy clutching a national flag flees the parliament in Ouagadougou on October 30, 2014, Angry demonstrators went on the rampage in Burkina Faso on Thursday, setting parliament ablaze in a surge of violence that forced the government to scrap a vote on controversial plans to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Burkina Faso troops face protestors on October 30, 2014 in Ouagadougou. Hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Burkina Faso troops face protestors on October 30, 2014 in Ouagadougou. Hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters stand outside the parliament in Ouagadougou on October 30, 2014 as cars and documents burn outside. Hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament on October 30 before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters run outside the parliament in Ouagadougou on October 30, 2014 as cars and documents burn outside. Hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament on October 30 before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters stand outside the parliament in Ouagadougou on October 30, 2014 as cars and documents burn outside. Hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament on October 30 before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Cars and documents burn outside the parliament in Ouagadougou on October 30, 2014. Hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament on October 30 before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Cars and documents burn outside the parliament in Ouagadougou on October 30, 2014. Hundreds of angry demonstrators in Burkina Faso stormed parliament on October 30 before setting it on fire in protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
A man stands in front of a burning car, near the Burkina Faso's Parliament where demonstrators set cars on fire parked, on October 30, 2014 in Ouagadougou, as they protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building in the capital Ouagadougou ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament, according to AFP correspondents. Protesters ransacked offices, setting fire to documents and stealing computer equipment, and set fire to cars outside. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
People stand in front of smoke rising from the Burkina Faso's Parliament, where demonstrators set cars on fire parked in a courtyard of the Parliament, on October 30, 2014 in Ouagadougou, as they protest at plans to change the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule. Police had fired tear gas on protesters to try to prevent them from moving in on the National Assembly building in the capital Ouagadougou ahead of a vote on the controversial legislation. But about 1,500 people managed to break through the security cordon and were ransacking parliament, according to AFP correspondents. Protesters ransacked offices, setting fire to documents and stealing computer equipment, and set fire to cars outside. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO - OCTOBER 30: People make fire during protest against President Blaise Compaore's plan to change the constitution to stay in power near the Congress for Democracy and Progress party building in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on October 29, 2014. (Photo by Lougri Dimtalba/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO - OCTOBER 30: People burn tires during protest against President Blaise Compaore's plan to change the constitution to stay in power at the streets road to Presidential palace in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on October 29, 2014. ((Photo by Lougri Dimtalba/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO - OCTOBER 30: People burn tires during protest against President Blaise Compaore's plan to change the constitution to stay in power at the streets road to Presidential palace in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on October 29, 2014. (Photo by Lougri Dimtalba/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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Gunshots rang out at the station and the channel was taken off the air for several hours. One person in the crowd was killed, an army spokesman said, calling for calm.

"The army does not want power. But the anarchy needs to stop. Any violation will be punished with the utmost energy," said Auguste Barry, referring to the incident at the television station earlier in the day.

Shortly afterwards, presidential guards moved in to prevent access to Ouagadougou's central Place de la Nation, the site of violent demonstrations against Compaore last week in which three people were killed and the parliament set ablaze.

BETRAYAL BY ARMY

Earlier, local people voiced outrage over what they saw as an attempt by the army to hijack their uprising and criticized the role of Zida, a large bespectacled man little known outside military circles whose trademark is a red beret.

One citizen carried a placard saying "Zida = Judas" while another said "Zida - get out of here".

"They are coming from Kossyam to enslave us," said protester Sanou Eric, referring to the country's presidential palace. "This is a coup d'etat. Zida has come out of nowhere."

"I am here to stop the army from stealing our victory," said another protester, Boubacar Sow.

The head of the United Nations Office for West Africa joined the United States and the African Union in rejecting the army's seizure of power but expressed cautious optimism about a return to civilian rule. Washington has also called for a power transfer to civilian authorities.

"We are hoping for a transition led by civilians in line with the constitution," Mohammed Ibn Chambas said.

"He (Zida) said he will reflect and try to work with the U.N., African Union and the Economic Community of West African States and to find an acceptable agreement which conforms to the constitution," said Chambas, adding that sanctions were a possibility if there was no progress.

Under Burkina Faso's constitution, the head of the National Assembly should take office if the president resigns, with a mandate to organize elections within 90 days. However the army has dissolved the legislature and suspended the constitution.

REGIONAL ALLY

Compaore, who seized power in the small, impoverished country in a 1987 coup, became a key ally of the United States and former colonial power France in operations against al Qaeda- linked groups in West Africa.

Locals blame Compaore for not doing more to tackle poverty in the nation of 17 million people by reinvesting government earnings from the gold and cotton sectors.

Diplomats say one reason why Compaore was so reluctant to leave power was his fear of prosecution on human rights charges, possibly linked to the death of left-wing revolutionary and former president Thomas Sankara, dubbed "Africa's Che Guevara".

Neighboring Ivory Coast confirmed on Saturday that Compaore had arrived there with his family and entourage but did not specify where he was staying.

The events in Ouagadougou are also being carefully followed by a generation of long-serving African leaders in Benin, Congo Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo who are also approaching the constitutional limits of their terms in office.

The United States and other Western countries have urged leaders to respect their constitutions, although analysts say that external pressure to democratize may be governed by strategic interests.

Washington can freeze military cooperation with Burkina Faso if it deems a coup has taken place.

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