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02.04.2012 Politics

ECOWAS Gives Mali Leaders Ultimatum To Relinquish Power

By Daily Graphic
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West African nations have given the leaders of a coup in Mali 72 hours to relinquish power or face sanctions.

The regional body ECOWAS said the proposed measures included closing land borders and freezing Mali's assets.

The leaders met in Ivory Coast, after earlier plans for talks with the coup leaders in the Malian capital, Bamako, were abandoned as coup supporters occupied the airport's runway.

Mali's neighbours have already told the junta to step aside.

They have also placed a peacekeeping force on standby.

Queues at banks
The president of ECOWAS, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, told reporters that if the deadline was not met, all the 15 countries of the bloc would deny Mali access to their ports, and there would be no transfers to commercial banks in Mali from the regional central bank, based in Senegal.

Mali is one of eight West African countries which use a common currency - the CFA franc.

The BBC's John James in Ivory Coast says it is difficult to see how the regime in poor, landlocked Mali could cope if these sanctions were imposed.

He says the financial isolation of the government of then Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo played a key role in weakening his grip on power last year - and he was in a far stronger position than coup leader Capt Amadou Sanogo.

Journalist Martin Vogl in Bamako told the BBC's Network Africa programme that even before the deadline was announced, there were long queues of people trying to withdraw money from banks in Mali's capital.

He says people are now likely to stock up on essential goods such as food, as well as petrol, which must be imported.

There has been no official reaction to the deadline from Mali's military rulers but Martin Vogl says they are very angry.

He says many Malians are upset that after 20 years of democracy, the army is once more in charge but there was also growing disillusionment with the ousted government and some feel ECOWAS is pushing too hard.

New rebel attack
The coup leaders have unveiled a new constitution as well as announcing elections in which those who took part in the coup would be barred from standing.

However, no date has yet been set. - BBC

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