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Mali’s interim PM forms government

Diarra said he would negotiate with rebel groups but not under duress (© 2009 AFP)

Mali’s interim prime minister Cheick Modibo Diarra on Wednesday formed a 24-member government, including three military representatives seen as close to the outgoing military junta.

The interim government’s main task will be to resolve the crisis in the north of the country, which has been seized by Tuareg and Islamist rebels.

The three — Colonel Yamoussa Camara, Colonel Moussa Sinko Coulibaly and General Tiefing Konate — will hold the defence, interior and civil protection portfolios in the west African country where the military seized power last month.

The junta relinquished control under a deal brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc.

Diarra was named interim prime minister on April 17, five days after the former parliament speaker Dioncounda Traore was inaugurated president under the agreement.

Diarra, a world-renowned astrophysicist, named apolitical experts, including three women, to his cabinet.

A group formed in the aftermath of the March 22 coup to support the putschists charged that the new line-up was not inclusive and “by no means a national unity government.”

“This government was formed in blatant violation of the agreement” reached by the coup leaders and ECOWAS for a civilian cabinet representative of all national forces.

The 60-year-old Diarra said on April 20 in his first speech to the nation as prime minister that he was prepared to negotiate with the rebel groups but not under duress.

He said Mali had “suffered a deficit from government and a lack of capacity to anticipate” which had led to the current situation.

A group of low-ranking soldiers ousted the democratically-elected government over what they said was its incompetence in dealing with a resurgent Tuareg rebellion.

However the power vacuum in the days after the coup allowed the Tuareg desert nomads and a group of armed Islamists to seize an area larger than France in the north of the country.

The Tuareg have declared an independent state and the Islamists have imposed sharia law in cities including Timbuktu.

Ousted president Amadou Toumani Toure resigned as part of the agreement hammered out between the junta and regional mediators to set up an interim government. He has sought refuge in neighbouring Senegal.

The new foreign minister, Sadio Lamine Sow, is a former close aide of Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore and has lived in the Burkina capital Ouagadougou for several years.

Compaore played in leading role in mediating the Mali crisis and in winning the release of western hostages seized by Islamist groups in the region.

Tiena Coulibaly was appointed minister for the economy, finance and the budget, while Mamadou Namory Traore takes over as minister in charge of the civil service and political reforms.

The new transition government will also help organise elections at a date as yet unknown.

The coup led to the cancellation of the April 29 presidential election.

The establishment of the government came after a series of arrests last week of people considered close to the ousted president, including former prime minister Modibo Sidibe. Most have since been released.

Signature : Gamer Dicko BAMAKO (AFP)

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