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Mali Coup Leaders Given Ultimatum from African Neighbors

Soldiers who seized power last week have so far rejected calls to return power to ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure

Common Dreams staff

Supporters of Mali's junta participate in a demonstration against regional bloc ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) at the international airport of Bamako March 29, 2012. Jets carrying West African presidents for a meeting with Mali's new military leaders were forced to turn back mid-flight on Thursday after hundreds of supporters of last week's coup invaded Bamako's main runway. An official from regional bloc ECOWAS said the meeting, aimed at pressuring coup leaders to swiftly restore constitutional rule after they ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure, could be rescheduled for Friday if security allowed. (REUTERS/Luc Gnago)

A week after Mali's President Amadou Toumani Toure was ousted in a military coup, the country's neighbors are threatening economic sanctions in an attempt to undercut support for the soldiers who have claimed authority of the west African nation.

The regional bloc of west African nations, ECOWAS, which includes Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Benin and Niger, has vowed to close all land borders with Mali, freeze the nation's bank accounts, and limit access to neighboring ports. Mali is a landlocked country.

As previously reported, Mali has been a member of the US counterterrorism program in Africa, and observers have noted that a coup in Mali was predictable blowback and warned against misguided military assistance. 'Operation Enduring Freedom Trans Sahara' is the principle US military program in this region, coordinated by the US African Command known as AFRICOM. The NATO campaign to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has also been cited a destablizing event for the small nation, as returning arms and fighters strengthened a rebellion in the north. Despite the strong military relationship with United States, the coup leaders have so far been condemned by US officials. Millions of dollars of US aid have now been suspended.

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Al-Jazeera: Regional bloc gives leaders of Mali's coup 72 hours to step down or face sanctions and closing of borders

The proposed sanctions, which [...] include a freeze in funding from the regional central bank, were announced on Thursday at a news conference in neighbouring Ivory Coast by ECOWAS, the West African bloc.

The move came after a delegation of five regional leaders were prevented from landing in Mali by a runway invasion at the airport in Bamako, the capital.

The leaders, including Alassane Ouattara, the Ivorian President and current ECOWAS chief, did a mid-air U-turn and were forced to fly back to Abidjan where the ultimatum was issued.

"The following sanctions were agreed and shall be implemented within 72 hours by Monday, April 2, 2012 at the latest," said Desire Kadre Ouedraogo, the president of the ECOWAS commission.

He said the sanctions would include the closure of the land-locked gold producer's borders for all but humanitarian goods.

Mali's account at the central bank of the West African franc zone would also be frozen and restrictions placed on its negotiations with private banks in the region. An asset freeze and travel ban on individuals linked to the coup would also be imposed, said ECOWAS.

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Reuters adds

The West African country is an indirect victim of last year's conflict in Libya, from where weapons spilled out and bolstered a northern rebellion. The coup was led by soldiers who complain the government has not given them adequate means to fight off the uprising.

The border threat was announced to reporters in neighbouring Ivory Coast by the West African ECOWAS bloc after a delegation of five regional leaders were prevented from landing in Mali by a runway invasion at the airport in the capital Bamako.

The leaders, including Ivorian President and current ECOWAS chief Alassane Ouattara, did a mid-air U-turn and flew back to Abidjan where they issued an ultimatum to the officers behind the coup in what was one of the region's most stable democracies.

"The following sanctions were agreed and shall be implemented within 72 hours by Monday, April 2, 2012 at the latest," ECOWAS commission president Desire Kadre Ouedraogo said.

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Agence France-Presse: US 'disappointed' on Mali coup mediation failure

The United States voiced disappointment Thursday after protesters in Mali prevented an airplane of African presidents from landing to mediate a return to democratic rule. [...]

"We support their efforts to achieve a swift return to civilian rule in Mali," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said of the mission by the presidents from the Economic Community of West African States.

"It's a disappointment that they weren't able to land and actually talk to the mutineers," Toner told reporters.

President Amadou Toumani Toure was chased out of power just five weeks before April 29 elections were to end his tenure. Soldiers swarmed Bamako in anger at what they said was Toure's incompetent handling of a Tuareg rebellion.

The United States has suspended tens of millions of dollars in aid to Mali as it joined African and European leaders in pressing for the restoration of the elected government.

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