EU widens sanctions against Guinea-Bissau coup leaders
5/31/2012 3:40:03 PM -
BRUSSELS (AFP) - The European Union strengthened its sanctions against Guinea-Bissau's military junta Thursday, slapping an asset freeze and visa ban on a further 15 people due to the "gravity of the situation."
The decision, announced by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, brings the number of coup leaders blacklisted by the 27-nation bloc to 21.
"The EU has imposed sanctions on the members of the military junta as they threaten security and stability in Guinea-Bissau," Ashton said in a statement.
The EU strongly condemned the April 12 coup in the tiny West African country, and in her statement Ashton said: "We continue to demand that constitutional order be immediately restored."
Earlier this week, a military source told AFP in Bissau that the withdrawal of Angolan soldiers, whose presence was cited as a reason for the coup, has been postponed.
The 600-strong military mission "will stay a few more days or maybe even weeks," an officer with the Guinea-Bissau military said Tuesday on condition of anonymity.
"It is not easy to withdraw a contingent of several hundred men," the officer said, adding that the soldiers would eventually leave as planned.
The west African ECOWAS bloc had said earlier that the Angolan troop withdrawal would begin on Tuesday.
The Bissau-Guinean army said its coup in the notoriously unstable country was caused by an alleged secret military deal signed by the government with Angola, a fellow ex-Portuguese colony.
ECOWAS had deployed 600 troops to Guinea-Bissau to replace the Angolans and keep order in the country during a one-year transition until fresh elections are held, with the last batches arriving in the country on Sunday.
Also on Tuesday, Gambia's immigration ministry said Guinea-Bissau's former army chief, elections chief and ousted interior minister were being detained "for security reasons" after fleeing to Banjul.
The three had sought refuge in the European Union mission in Bissau after the coup, which aborted a presidential election ahead of a second round of voting.