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Mali transition to last a year: regional leaders

Mali's interim president Dioncouda Traore (L) and Senegalese President Macky Sall at the meeting (© 2009 AFP)

West African leaders meeting Thursday in Ivory Coast decided that a transition government in Mali should remain for a year following a March 22 military coup.

“The heads of state and government decided that the transition period should last 12 months,” followed by presidential and legislative elections, said a statement by the Economic Community of West African States.

The ECOWAS leaders said a regional military force would be sent to northern Mali and between 500 and 600 troops to Guinea-Bissau to help secure the transitions after political and military crises in both countries.

Leaders asked the executive ECOWAS commission to immediately start deploying a force in Mali, where armed groups have controlled the north for a month.

They also asked to immediately send an ECOWAS contingent to Guinea-Bissau and gave the country’s junta 72 hours to accept the decision, or face diplomatic, economic and financial sanctions, a final statement said.

The leaders also threatened prosecution before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

“We first expect negotiations,” said ECOWAS commission chief Desire Kadre Ouedraogo. “The first contingent has a peacekeeping role and will secure the transition, but it cannot be excluded that combat units will be sent later” should the talks fail.

At least four countries — Nigeria, Togo, Ivory Coast and Senegal — will provide between “500 and 600 men” who will be deployed to Guinea-Bissau, said Ouedraogo.

The force, which will be led by Barro Gnibanga of Burkina Faso, is to “facilitate the withdrawal of Angola’s technical and military assistance mission from Guinea-Bissau, help in securing the transition process” and prepare the reform of the defence and security sector, said the final statement.

Signature : ABIDJAN (AFP)

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