Events in Mali are changing rapidly as the military junta says it has restored the constitution and Tuareg rebels complete their sweep of major northern cities.
During a news conference near the capital, Bamoko, Captain Amadou Sanogo read a brief statement saying he had restored the last constitution, which was adopted in 1992.
He also said state institutions had been restored and he vowed to organize the return of power to civilians. But the coup leader did not provide a timeline for new elections.
The action came one day before the Economic Community of West African States ( ECOWAS ) was to impose harsh economic actions unless the junta returned power to civilians.
Also Sunday, Tuareg rebels took control of the historic town of Timbuktu, the last major city in the north that was under the military's control.
Government officials and witnesses say the rebels placed a flag outside the governor's home and looted banks. People on the scene reported the fighting had stopped, but the situation remained very tense.
Witnesses say the city of Gao, which rebels seized on Saturday, remains chaotic. They say rebels have looted banks and army weapons left behind are in the hands of civilians.
On Saturday, junta leaders asked the president of neighboring Burkina Faso for help to battle the Tuareg rebellions. But junta officials who traveled to Ouagadougou say President Blaise Compaore rejected the request and urged them to restore constitutional order.
Renegade soldiers seized power from democratically elected President Amadou Toure on March 22, after accusing him of failing to provide the army with enough resources to stop the Tuareg rebellion.
Heavily armed Tuareg rebels arrived in northern Mali after the fall of neighboring Libya, and launched an insurgency in mid-January.
Tuareg separatists have been seeking autonomy for decades.
(( 2 SOUNDBITES INCLUDED IN APTN VIDEO INCLUDE:
2. SOUNDBITE, Captain Amadou Sanogo, Coup Leader (French, translations below):
SOUNDBITE 1: “Following the final statement of The Economic Community Of West African States held in Abidjan on the 27 March 2012 and a statement from the ministers the ECOWAS from the 29 March 2012, and after consultation with the President of Burkina Faso, his excellency Blaise Compaore, mediator during the Mali crisis, we take a solemn promise to re-establish from this day on the constitution of the Republic of Mali of February 25, 1992, as well as the institutions of the republic.”
SOUNDBITE 2: Captain Amadou Sanogo, Coup Leader:
“We will leave conditions for a good transition to preserve national unity, we will engage, under the eyes of mediators, in consultations with all the actors of society in the context of a national convention in order to put in place a transitional body with the aim of organizing calm, free, transparent and democratic elections in which we will not participate.”