ECOWAS Supports Mali Against Taureg Rebels

Posted February 17th, 2012 at 12:55 pm (UTC-5)
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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has voiced support for Mali's government, which is battling Taureg rebels in the country's north.

In a communique Friday, ECOWAS condemned the rebellion, said it supported Mali's efforts to “defend its territorial integrity,” and called for peace talks.

ECOWAS also pledged $3 million for humanitarian assistance to victims of rebel attacks and the growing food crisis affecting northern Mali and other parts of West Africa's Sahel region.

U.N. aid agencies have said fighting in Mali has displaced at least 30,000 people, and that millions across West Africa are facing food shortages because of drought and high food prices.

The communique came Friday at the end of the two-day ECOWAS summit in Nigeria's capital, Abuja.

ECOWAS leaders also elected Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara as the body's new chairman, replacing Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

Mr. Ouattara took power in Ivory Coast ten months ago, after rebel fighters, aided by French and U.N. forces, ousted his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo had refused to give up power after losing a presidential election to Mr. Ouattara in late 2010.

Taureg fighters in northern Mali began attacking towns and government positions last month. Many of the fighters returned to Mali from Libya last year, after fighting on behalf of ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.