ECOWAS Delegation Turns Back from Mali

Posted March 29th, 2012 at 2:10 pm (UTC-5)
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A delegation of West African presidents has abandoned plans to meet with Mali's junta leaders following pro-coup protests at the airport and in the capital.

The delegation from the regional bloc ECOWAS was scheduled to meet Thursday in Mali's capital, Bamako, to press for a deal restoring constitutional rule.

An advisor to Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara said the president's airplane entered Malian airspace, but turned around in midair because demonstrators were on the runway.

Diplomatic sources say the other presidents scrapped their plans to attend the talks. The regional group is expected to have an emergency meeting in Abidjan.

Earlier this week, ECOWAS suspended Mali and threatened sanctions on the new junta and possible military action if necessary.

The U.S. State Department says it is disappointed that the ECOWAS leaders were unable to land, but remains hopeful that there can be a rapid diplomatic solution to the situation in the country.

Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré was deposed last week in a coup by soldiers angry at his handling of an ethnic Tuareg rebellion in the north.

Mr. Touré told French media on Wednesday that he is not in detention and remains in the country.

Meanwhile Thursday, Tuareg rebels say they have attacked the town of Kidal in northern Mali.

A member of the Azawad National Liberation movement (MNLA) told VOA's French to Africa service that rebels have deployed heavy weapons in their attempt to take control of Kidal. He described the town as the last key city before Gao and Timbuktu.