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West Africa to send team to G. Bissau

Goodluck Jonathan met with Alassane Ouattara over the crises in Guinea-Bissau and Mali (© 2009 AFP)

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said Wednesday that West Africa will within days send a team to Guinea-Bissau for new talks on steering the coup-torn country back to constitutional rule.

Jonathan made the announcement after flying into Abidjan for a whirlwind meeting with Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara, the current head of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), on tackling the political crises in Guinea-Bissau and Mali.

The two leaders discussed “sending a team back to Guinea-Bissau that is likely to leave tomorrow or the day after to take a position that we believe will return the country to normal democratic governance,” Jonathan told journalists.

The team will hold talks on sending in ECOWAS troops to oversee the transition and will include Ivory Coast’s defence minister and a top official from Nigeria’s foreign ministry, said Ivorian Coast Foreign Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan.

Tension remains high in Guinea-Bissau after the April 12 coup, which aborted a presidential election. The former ruling party ousted in the putsch has rejected plans to install a new interim president, demanding that the coup first be reversed.

At a summit in Senegal last month, West African leaders threatened tougher action against coup leaders in both Guinea-Bissau and Mali if they continue to stall efforts to restore democratic rule.

Jonathan and Ouattara also “briefly” discussed the crisis in Mali, said the Ivorian foreign minister.

ECOWAS has floated the prospect of sending troops into northern Mali, now controlled by Tuareg and Islamist rebels who launched a sweeping offensive after a March 22 coup.

Nigeria’s support is seen as crucial to any such military intervention.

West Africa’s largest military power, Nigeria has itself been shaken by attacks linked to Islamist group Boko Haram, which analysts say has ties to the Al-Qaeda branch operating in Mali.

ECOWAS has also called on Mali’s coup leaders, who officially handed power to a transitional government last month, to allow for swift elections, but the ex-junta has rejected the demand.

Jonathan, who leads Africa’s most populous nation, left Abidjan immediately after his meeting with Ouattara to head to a World Economic Forum meeting in Addis Ababa on Africa’s growth potential.

Signature : ABIDJAN (AFP)

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