Nigerian ministers back absent President

Nigeria's cabinet rallied around ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua yesterday, passing a unanimous resolution that he remains capable of holding office despite a two-month absence for medical treatment.

But the vote set the cabinet on a collision course with the senate, which said Mr Yar'Adua should formally notify parliament of his absence, a step which would mean his deputy taking over.

The 58-year-old leader has been in Saudi Arabia since late November receiving treatment for a heart condition but has not formally transferred power to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, triggering debate over the legality of government decisions. No minister has publicly said they have spoken to Mr Yar'Adua in recent weeks and it was not clear what medical evidence formed the basis for the vote of confidence.

The senate could in theory move to impeach Mr Yar'Adua for misconduct if he fails to heed its call.