By Adama Diarra
BAMAKO (Reuters) - Mali's interim president, Dioncounda Traore, reappointed his prime minister on Sunday, calling upon him to name a new government of national unity within 72 hours to form a united front against Islamists in the north.
Once considered a democratic success story in a long troubled region, the West African nation has been split in two since a March 22 coup paved the way for a military advance by northern separatists and al Qaeda-linked Islamists.
Traore and Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra, a former NASA astrophysicist and political novice, were named as part of a deal that saw a military junta return leadership of the country to a civilian caretaker government.
The two men have had a rocky relationship, however, and the transitional authority, crippled by political infighting, has achieved little.
"Cheick Modibo Diarra was reappointed to his post by the president of the transition Dioncounda Traore in order to form a government of national unity in the next 72 hours," Amadou Konate, an advisor with the prime minister's office, told Reuters.
The reappointment was also confirmed in a statement from the presidency read on state television on Sunday night.
West Africa's ECOWAS bloc, which is pushing for the deployment of a 3,000-troop intervention force in Mali, had called upon Traroe to form a more representative government.
While the coup was condemned abroad, the reaction in cotton- and gold-producing Mali was mixed, with some praising the removal of a political class they said was corrupt.
Amid rumors that the prime minister would not be included in the new government, this pro-coup camp has broadly called for Diarra to remain.
Traore, who has spent much of his short tenure in France recovering from injuries he sustained in May when he was attacked by a pro-coup mob, had originally stated he would carry out consultations to form the new government himself.
Earlier on Sunday, High Islamic Council, which Malians have increasingly come to view as their country's moral authority, held a rally in the capital, Bamako.
Some 50,000 to 60,000 people packed into Mali's national football stadium to call for peace and unity in the face of the ongoing occupation of the north by Islamist groups MUJWA, Ansar Dine, and al Qaeda's North African affiliate, AQIM.
"The political class, the civil society, and the men in uniform must come together quickly," Mahamoud Dicko, the High Islamic Council's president, said in a speech to the cheering crowd.
(Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Stacey Joyce)