Neighbors Prepare to Restore Order in Mali

Posted April 6th, 2012 at 5:45 pm (UTC-5)
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The 15-state West African bloc ECOWAS says it is preparing a force of up to 3,000 soldiers which could be deployed in Mali with the aim of securing a return to constitutional order and halting any further rebel advance.

The bloc had imposed harsh sanctions on military coup leaders to force them to restore a civilian government.

France offered logistic support, including transport. French defense Minister Gerard Longuet made the promise Friday. He also urged ECOWAS to work toward a long-term political solution for Mali where Tuareg rebels for decades have fought for an independent state.

Mali's embattled coup leader Amadou Sanogo said late Friday that the National Assembly president will become the next head of state. Sanogo spoke after separatist Tuareg rebels declared their independence in northern Mali and asked for international recognition of their so-called “Azawad” nation.

The African Union quickly rejected the rebels' declaration, dismissing it as “null and of no value whatsoever” as did former colonial power France.

President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou told VOA , said, “Mali is one and indivisible.”

In a fast-moving offensive, the Tuareg rebels, with support of Islamist fighters, seized northern Mali cities of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu over a three-day period beginning last Friday. The rebels of The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, or MNLA, said they would respect borders with other states.

Islamist militant group Ansar Dine fought alongside the rebels. His group has been linked to the al-Qaida branch in northern Africa and has imposed Islamic law in some areas.

The country's main political parties have rejected a call by military junta leaders for a “national convention” to sort out the country's political and security problems.

The heavily armed Tuareg rebels arrived in northern Mali after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, and launched an insurgency in mid-January.

Renegade Malian officers seized power from President Amadou Toumani Toure on March 22. The soldiers accused the president of failing to equip the army to fight the rebels.