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Officials in Burkina Faso on Monday named veteran diplomat Michel Kafando (pictured) as transitional president in a key step towards returning the West African country to democracy.

Kafando, who will lead the country through 2015, was selected after several hours of negotiation, which began on Sunday.

"The consensus candidate is Michel Kafando," said Ignace Sandwidi, a representative of the Catholic Church, which was involved in the discussions to find a new leader.

Kafando was chosen in the wake of mass protests and a military coup that toppled president Blaise Compaoré on October 31.

Compaoré was replaced a day later by Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida as head of state, but military leaders quickly faced the threat of sanctions if they did not re-establish civilian rule.

Kafando, 72, will name a prime minister to appoint a 25-member government, but will be barred from standing at elections planned for November next year.

On Saturday the military reinstated the constitution, which was suspended in the wake of Compaoré’s ouster.

A "transition charter" – a sort of interim constitution hammered out between the military and civilian, opposition and religious figures last week – was officially signed by the military on Sunday.

Applause erupted after Zida initialed the document, which marked his acceptance of a return to civilian leadership in the country.

Former Compaoré minister

“The committee has just designated me to guide temporarily the destiny of our country. This is more than an honour. It’s a true mission which I will take with the utmost seriousness,” Kafando told journalists after his appointment.

He described the appointment as "more than a honour".

"It is an awesome responsibility that falls to me. I already foresee the pitfalls and the immensity of the task," he said.

Kafando served as the country's ambassador to the United Nations from 1998 to 2011. Previously he was Burkina Faso's foreign affairs minister between 1981 and 1982.

A committee of 23 officials chose him over other top candidates, which included journalist Cherif Sy and sociologist and ex-minister Josephine Ouédraogo. His candidacy was proposed by the army.

Kafando's appointment will now have to be ratified by the Constitutional Council.

It comes ahead of a deadline imposed by the African Union, which instructed Burkina Faso to establish interim institutions and pick an interim president by Monday or face sanctions.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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