Neigh­bor states get tough af­ter Mali coup

Could cut off ac­cess to cash, gas af­ter sol­diers seized power

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY RUK­MINI CAL­LI­MACHI AND LAURA BURKE

BAMAKO, MALI | The heads of state of coun­tries neigh­bor­ing Mali said Tues­day that they want to send a “strong sig­nal” to the muti­nous sol­diers who seized power last week, over­turn­ing more than 20 years of democ­racy in this West African na­tion.

Al­ready, the United States, the Euro­pean Union and France have cut off aid. Ad­di­tional sanc­tions from the re­gion would be a fur­ther blow to the junta.

The coun­tries that con­trol the com­mon cur­rency shared by Mali are all rep­re­sented in an­other re­gional group, the Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity for West African States, which met Tues­day and could de­cide to cut off Mali’s sup­ply of cash.

Also, if Ivory Coast shut its bor­der, Mali would quickly run out of gaso­line.

The chair­man of the 15-na­tion Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity, Ivory Coast Pres­i­dent Alas­sane Ou­at­tara, called on his peers to send a mes­sage to the muti­nous sol­diers in Mali who charged through the cap­i­tal, loot­ing the pres­i­den­tial palace and send­ing into hid­ing the na­tion’s demo­crat­i­cally elected pres­i­dent, Amadou Toumani Toure.

“Our po­si­tion should con­sist of a num­ber of ac­tions that we carry out as quickly as pos­si­ble. This po­si­tion should be a strong sig­nal, given from all of Africa and from the en­tire world,” Mr. Ou­at­tara said.

The pend­ing decision by the body comes af­ter France sus­pended all gov­ern­ment co­op­er­a­tion with Mali, ex­cept for hu­man­i­tar­ian aid.

On Mon­day, State Depart­ment spokes­woman Vic­to­ria Nu­land in Washington an­nounced that the U.S. was cut­ting off roughly half the $140 mil­lion in aid it gives Mali each year. She said mil­i­tary and other as­sis­tance would re­sume when the African coun­try’s demo­cratic gov­ern­ment is re­stored.

Out­side of the con­fer­ence cen­ter in Abid­jan, Ivory Coast, where the Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity meet­ing was in process, hun­dreds of demon­stra­tors from Mali called on the del­e­ga­tion to take ac­tion.

“We do not rec­og­nize the sol­diers as our lead­ers. We do not rec­og­nize them to­day, to­mor­row or next year,” shouted Amadou Maga, a Malian who lives in Abid­jan.

Mo­hammed Decko, the head of a Malian as­so­ci­a­tion, wear­ing a shirt with the im­age of Mr. Toure, said: “We want the sol­diers back in their bar­racks. . . . This coup is putting Mali back 20 years.”

Mr. Toure, whose where­abouts since the coup re­main un­known, be­gan los­ing sup­port when an al Qaeda-linked ter­ror­ist cell im­planted it­self in north­ern Mali in 2003. He is ac­cused of turn­ing a blind eye, while diplo­matic ca­bles sug­gest the gov­ern­ment en­tered into a pact of nonag­gres­sion with the ter­ror­ists for fear they would strike the cap­i­tal in re­venge.

It was in Jan­uary that Mr. Toure’s pop­u­lar­ity hit a new low, af­ter a Tuareg up­ris­ing be­gan in the coun­try’s north. Again Mr. Toure did not respond force­fully, and when he fi­nally sent troops to fight the in­sur­gents, they were ill-equipped. Some did not even have enough food.

The sol­diers who led the at­tack last week said that it was Mr. Toure’s fail­ure and in­com­pe­tence in deal­ing with the 2-month-old in­sur­gency that pushed them to seize power.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

Peo­ple in Mali wait out­side a travel agency Tues­day to buy tick­ets. The coun­try’s air­port re­opened al­most a week af­ter a mil­i­tary coup. The body rep­re­sent­ing na­tions in western Africa sus­pended Mali and put a peace­keep­ing force on standby.

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