The leader of the Central African Republic (CAR), Francois Bozize, has decided to allow three candidates barred by the country's transitional court to take in part in presidential elections, set for 13 February.
The move, Bozize said in a speech broadcast on state-owned Radio Centrafrique on Tuesday, was designed to preserve peace and support from CAR's international donor organisations for the electoral process.
Local and international groups had widely condemned Thursday's decision by the constitutional court to allow only five out of 15 candidates to run for president.
One of the five candidates is Bozize, who seized power on 15 March 2003 from President Ange-Felix Patasse, after leading a six-month rebellion. Patasse is among the candidates blocked from running.
Bozize has still not allowed Patasse to run on the grounds that he is under criminal investigation.
"I think that candidates who have pending cases of blood (sic) crimes and economic crimes must be definitely banned," he said.
The five candidates cleared by the court include Bozize, former President Andre Kolingba, current Vice-President Abel Goumba, a lawyer, Henri Pouzere, and former minister Auguste Boukanga.
Besides the five, Bozize has now allowed Jean-Paul Ngoupande of the Parti de l'Unite Nationale, Martin Ziguele - an independent and Charles Massi of the Forum pour la Democratie et la Modernité, to run for the presidency.
Bozize said he repealed the court's decision based on Article 22 of the new constitution, which was approved in December in a referendum. The second paragraph of the constitution allows the president to "ensure, through his arbitration, the regular functioning of the public powers and continuity - of the state."
The court's decision had plunged the country into a political crisis. The chairman of the National Transitional Council, Nicolas Tiangaye, said the decision showed the court was "abusing its power". It "must be immediately dissolved", he added.
However, on Monday the court re-affirmed its decision.
"The list of candidates - will be the one published on 30 December 2004," Marcel Malonga, chairman of the Transitional Constitutional Court, said in a communiqué read over state-owned radio. "The court's decisions are not susceptible to any reconsideration."
Bozize made his announcement after meeting with key political arbitrators in the country.
Still, Bozize's clearing of only three of the blocked candidates may not be enough for some critics. The French foreign ministry issued a statement on Friday, saying that elections should be "open to all political parties of the country without exclusion".