Guinea says to release blocked Malian weapons

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 17, 2012 1:12 PM
Guinea says to release blocked Malian weapons

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea's government said on Wednesday it would release an arms shipment that belongs to neighboring Mali, months after Conakry seized it due to concerns over who in Mali's divided military would receive it.

The row over the arms, which were ordered by Mali's previous government but blocked at Conakry's port since July, has been one of the clearest signs of the distrust between West African leaders and Mali's fractious post-coup administration.

"We are agreed on the idea of releasing these weapons," Almamy Kabele Camara, Guinea's deputy defense minister, told Reuters, without giving any time frame.

"The weapons will be handed over the Malian government under the supervision of ECOWAS," he added, referring to the West African regional bloc that has been leading efforts to resolve Mali's crisis.

No official details have been given on the arms shipment but a source monitoring arms shipments told Reuters last month it included 20 BTR-60 armored personnel carriers, which were ordered by Amadou Toumani Toure, who was ousted as Mali's president in a March coup.

Mali's army has since handed power back to civilians but the former junta is accused of meddling in politics while the north of the country remains occupied by Islamist rebels, including some linked to al Qaeda.

The lack of trust has undermined international efforts to mobilize national and regional forces for a military operation seen by most analysts as inevitable despite efforts to resolve Mali's crisis through dialogue.

(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Alison Williams)