LOME, Togo -- Togo's parliament hastily amended the constitution yesterday to put a legal veneer on the military's appointment of Faure Gnassingbe to replace his deceased father as president, voiding the need for new elections until 2008.
The military, within hours of the announcement of Gnassingbe Eyadema's death Saturday, named his son president, contravening the country's constitution that called for the speaker of parliament to succeed the head of state until elections could be held in 60 days.
The extraordinary session of the 81-member national assembly, dominated by Eyadema's ruling Togo People's Rally party, overwhelmingly approved Gnassingbe, 39, as speaker of parliament. It then passed a constitutional amendment allowing him to fulfill his father's term, which expires in 2008.
The African Union, trying to put decades of coups on the continent behind it, condemned the army appointment.
''The constitutional order must be reestablished so that power can be held by the president of the national assembly," said Adam Thiam, spokesman for African Union chairman Alpha Oumar Konare.
''This administration will not be recognized because it comes from a coup d'etat."
France, Togo's colonial ruler until 1960, put its troops in the region on alert in case they are needed to protect 2,500 citizens in the West African nation of 5.5 million.
President Jacques Chirac of France ''made it known that the time of military coups d'etat is finished in Africa," said his defense minister, Michele Alliot-Marie.
Eyadema, who ruled for 38 years -- longer than any leader except Cuba's Fidel Castro -- had a heart attack Saturday and reportedly died as he was being rushed to Europe for treatment. He was 69.
The army move and the parliament's endorsement reflected the determination of Eyadema's minority Kabye ethnic group, which dominates the army, to hold onto power along with ruling party members who have benefited from decades of Eyadema's patronage.
Before being declared president Saturday, Gnassingbe was a communications minister and a member of parliament for Blitta, in central Togo. He was present during the session yesterday.
If the army had not stepped in, the interim presidency would have legally gone to Fanbare Ouattara Natchaba, the speaker of parliament who was in Europe when Eyadema died.
Hurrying back to Africa, Natchaba was forced to return to Benin, instead of Togo, because authorities sealed his country's borders as a security measure. Officials said he would now become a regular parliament member.
The army Saturday justified its endorsement of Eyadema's son as president, arguing that waiting until Natchaba returned would have risked instability.
Natchaba, reached by phone yesterday at a hotel in Benin's main city, Cotonou, said, ''I don't wish to give any interviews."
Eyadema took power in 1967, four years after abetting one of the first postcolonial coups in sub-Saharan Africa.