ECOWAS Lifts Sanctions Against Mali

Posted April 8th, 2012 at 9:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Mali's President Amadou Toumani Toure has officially resigned weeks after being toppled in a military coup that came just months before his term was to end.

A mediator for ECOWAS — the Economic Community of West African States — said he received Mr. Toure's resignation letter Sunday.

An ECOWAS official tells VOA that the group has lifted harsh economic sanctions against Mali, saying it is satisfied the military is committed to restoring constitutional rule.

But the official says it would be dangerous for the military to renege on its agreement to hold democratic elections. He says he cannot see how an ECOWAS member can live in isolation among its neighbors.

Under a deal reached Friday, former Malian speaker of parliament Dioncounda Traore will serve as president with a transitional government until elections are held.

ECOWAS pledged to help Mali fight the Tuareg rebels who have seized much of the country's north and proclaimed an independent state there following the military coup.

The coup leaders justified their takeover by denouncing what they said was the former government's ineffectual campaign to suppress the Tuareg rebellion.

The U.S. State Department Sunday evacuated all Peace Corps volunteers and offered all non-essential diplomatic personnel flights out of the country.

U.S. officials say the situation in Mali remains fluid and unpredictable. It also says there is a threat of kidnappings and attacks against Westerners in the north.

Mali's neighbors all criticized both the military coup and the new “Azawad” state declared by the northern rebels, who got help from the radical Islamist group Ansar Dine.

The self-styled National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad controls the cities of Timbuktu, Gao and other areas in the north. It declared its independence Friday and said its military campaign is over. The heavily armed Tuaregs, formerly based in Moammar Gadhafi's Libya, began fighting in northern Mali in January.