After leading a coup in Mauritania last week, Gen Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz has refused to rule out standing in elections planned by the country’s new military rulers.
He also declined to set a date for elections, insisting they would be transparent, in an interview with the BBC.
Last Wednesday, Gen Abdelaziz led a coup, overthrowing Mauritania’s first democratically-elected leader.
Following the coup, the African Union (AU) said it would suspend Mauritania.
In Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital, Gen Abdelaziz told the BBC’s James Copnall that he had been forced to act, after the deposed president, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, decided to sack the country’s four most senior military officers.
Under house arrest
Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi had been leading the country away from democracy, said Gen Abdelaziz, and the sacking of military chiefs would have led to fighting between military factions.
“We are thinking of organising elections, which we want to be transparent and democratic”, he said.
“We are used to respecting our commitments, so for this reason we cannot take the risk of giving a date which might not be respected.”
“I can’t say now whether I will be a candidate, because it depends on the future. I won’t rule it out but I am not saying I will be a candidate either.”
Mr Abdallahi has been took captive, along with other senior government officials, during the coup on Wednesday.
Mr Abdallahi was being well looked after under house arrest and was in good health, said Gen Abdelaziz.
Yet, concerning the prospects of the ousted president returning to political life, he appeared sceptical, said BBC correspondents.
When Mr Abdallahi was elected in 2007, it was the country’s first free and fair poll in more than two decades.
Widespread international criticism has been drawn by the coup, which was the latest in a series over the last three decades in Mauritania, and all non-humanitarian aid has been withdrawn by the US.
Mauritania is one of the world’s poorest countries, and the AU said it would be suspended at least until a constitutional government was restored.
But any international sanctions would not alter Gen Abdelaziz behaviour, he said.