A plan to restrict West African presidents to two terms in office has been dropped for the time being by heads of state.
They discussed the proposal to impose limits at a regional summit.
Togo and The Gambia, both with presidents who have been in power for more than two terms, opposed the idea, diplomats say.
The third-term issue has caused a lot of controversy in several African states in recent years. Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore was forced out of office last year after plans to run for a third term. There is currently political tension in East Africa as Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza is hoping to win a third term in office.
The constitutions of most West African states already impose a two-term limit.
The proposal discussed at Tuesday’s Ecowas summit in the capital, Accra, was supposed to formalise this across the region.
The UN representative in West Africa Mohammed Ibn Chambas backed the plan and said it had been triggered by the failed attempt by President Compaore to change the constitution to allow him to run for a third term.
But it was not adopted as Togo and The Gambia had reservations.
“This dissenting view became the majority view at the end of the day,” the Reuters news agency quotes Ghana’s Foreign Minister Hanna Tetteh as saying.
The plan has now been deferred for further consultation.
Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe has been in power since 2005 and won a third term in office last month.
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh is reaching the end of his fourth term in office after coming to power in a coup in 1994.
President Jammeh told the BBC in 2011 that presidents should be judged on what they do in power not by the length of time they have been in office.
“I will deliver to the Gambian people and if I have to rule this country for one billion years, I will, if Allah says so,” he said.