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Neighbours to Confront Mali Coup Leaders

Correspondents* - IPS/Al Jazeera

DOHA, Qatar, Mar 28 2012 (IPS) - Mali’s neighbours have threatened to use sanctions and a readiness to use military force to dislodge those behind last week’s coup, urging them to quickly hand back power to civilian rulers.

A summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has agreed to send a team of heads of state to confront the coup leaders in the coming days.

Meanwhile, thousands of people rallied in support of the military leaders in the capital, Bamako, on Wednesday.

“It’s the first show of public support,” Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Bamako, said, adding that some people claimed it was choreographed by coup leader Amadou Sanogo.

“He has to show the world that he’s popular, that people love him, that people are taking to the streets to defend his policies.”

The protesters brandished banners reading “Down with ATT” referring to the deposed President Amadou Toumani Toure, while shouting “Sanogo solution” in support of Sanogo.

Force on stand-by

The ECOWAS delegation will be made up of the leaders of Ivory Coast, Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger and Liberia, the bloc said in a statement after its meeting in the Ivorian economic capital of Abidjan on Tuesday.

“The summit authorises preparations for a force under stand-by for ECOWAS to deal with any eventuality,” the statement said, which also threatened possible travel bans and financial and diplomatic sanctions on junta members.

The statement did not include any indications of possible army action on the ground and the bloc, which does not have its own standing army, would have to go through potentially lengthy processes to raise sufficient troops from member states.

The one-day meeting suspended Mali from all decision-making bodies of the bloc in a widely expected diplomatic gesture. France, the EU and the United States have all cut off most of their aid.

In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera, Sanogo defended the coup he led, saying the president he deposed had failed the country.

Sanogo also blamed the toppled government for not doing enough to deal with Tuareg fighters in the north.

“What drove us to end the rule of President Amadou Toure is the long- standing crisis in the north; the armed gangs are killing people and it became very difficult for the developmental programme to succeed, which left the army in a disastrous situation,” Sanogo said.

“We’ve set up a technical team to look into possible solutions for the crisis in the north. War and military confrontation is not the preferred choice, and those in the north are our brothers and they can sit with us at the negotiating table,” Sanogo said.

Widespread criticism

Despite facing widespread criticism for the coup, Sanogo said he hoped the international community would accept the reasons for the takeover.

“We will send representatives to international organisations, as well as to friendly countries, to explain the goals that drove us to carry this out,” Sanogo said.

Late on Tuesday, the new rulers announced the adoption of a new “fundamental act” designed to guarantee the rule of law in “a pluralist democracy”.

The coup leaders, who suspended the existing constitution, said in a statement read out by a soldier on state television that the new document guaranteed basic human rights.

The statement also said that members of the military leadership would not be allowed to stand in legislative and presidential elections.

The new rulers have not set a date for elections but have lifted the curfew that has been in place since last week’s coup.

*Published under an agreement with Al Jazeera.

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