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West African leaders meet on Guinea-Bissau, Mali

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

West African presidents opened a special summit Thursday to discuss the crises in Guinea-Bissau and Mali stemming from military seizures of power.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, current head of the Economic Community of West African States, chaired the gathering which also included Mali’s interim president Dioncounda Traore.

The 15-member ECOWAS has been rattled by coups in Mali and Guinea-Bissau over the past five weeks, and is mulling the deployment of troops to both countries.

In Mali, a group of renegade soldiers ousted the president on March 22, claiming to act against the government’s inability to stop a Tuareg rebellion in the north.

Since then however, the Tuaregs and Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamists have conquered the entire northern half of the country.

Amid a barrage of international condemnation, the junta handed power back to a transitional civilian authority under Traore but the coup leaders have continued to flex their muscles.

Soldiers also took over in coup-prone Guinea-Bissau on April 12 ahead of run-off presidential elections, striking a deal with opposition parties for a two-year transition period which excludes the former ruling party and its allies.

Also present at Thursday’s meeting was Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, ECOWAS mediator in the Mali crisis, and newly-elected Senegalese President Macky Sall.

Signature : ABIDJAN (AFP)

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