Mali soldiers threaten to force out coup mediators

AP News
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Posted: Apr 28, 2012 3:08 PM
Mali soldiers threaten to force out coup mediators

Soldiers disrupted a meeting between West African mediators and Mali's junta on Saturday because they said they do not agree with mediators' decisions, and threatened to force the officials to leave.

Some soldiers cocked their guns and said even if coup leader Capt. Amadou Sanogo agreed with mediators from the regional bloc ECOWAS, they did not. The soldiers only backed down after Sanogo came out of the meeting room and ordered them to disperse.

Some soldiers said: "Down with ECOWAS."

The junta has said they are unhappy by recent decisions from ECOWAS over Mali's recent coup. The junta said they wanted no foreign forces in Mali, whereas West African leaders decided to send in troops.

The soldiers are also upset by the ECOWAS decision to extend the interim president's term beyond 40 days to one year. The junta has said that they want to choose a new leader in consultation with ECOWAS after the 40 days normally given to an interim president under the constitution to organize elections.

Sanogo said the mediation efforts were still on track.

"The Committee is of course going to stick to the framework agreement signed between ECOWAS and this committee," he said. "No change is possible."

But he said that after 40 days, "it's going to be up to us to choose the institutions that are going to continue this transition. That remains unchangeable. The government will stay of course," he said, referring to the new government announced earlier this week.

Mutinous soldiers overthrew Mali's democratically elected president last month, though the junta has since handed over power to an interim civilian government.

However, the country is battling insecurity in the north where separatist rebels have declared independence, and militants are trying to impose strict Islamic law.