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Africa
Mali interim president urges unity government
Dioncounda Traore has announced new government posts and called for unity to end West African nation's political crisis.
Last Modified: 30 Jul 2012 09:47
Interim president arrived in Bamako Friday after seeking treatment for injuries sustained in a mob attack [Reuters]

Dioncounda Traore, interim president of Mali, has moved to stifle Cheick Modibo Diarra, his prime minister, by announcing the creation of new bodies tasked with ending the ongoing crisis in the west African nation.

In an address delivered on television on Sunday, Traore announced he would be in charge of a High Council of State, lead talks for a unity government himself and create a committee to negotiate with the fighters who currently control the north of the country.

The High Council of State, designed to "complete the country's institutional architecture" and "adapt it to socio-political realities", will be comprised of Traore, and two vice-presidents. One will be in charge of defence and security as well as handling the four-month-old crisis in the north. The other will represent the various non-political forces in Mali.

"Now is the time to mobilise every force we have to save our country from danger," Traore said.

The interim president also announced a government of national unity, with consultations being led by himself, not Diarra,  who has come under fire by a broad front of political parties, unions and civil organisations since first taking office in April.

The unity government comes after demands by the nation's west African neighbours who set a deadline of July 31, or Bamako would face regional sanctions.

Return from Paris

Traore said a "national negotiating committee" would be set up to "engage in peace talks so as to seek through dialogue negotiated solutions to the crisis" in the north.

Traore returned to the capital on Friday amid tight security after a two-month stay in Paris for medical treatment following a mob attack in his office.

"I forgive my attackers," the 70-year-old said at Bamako airport after he landed.

Captain Amadou Sanogo, a former Junta leader, who led a March 22 coup which plunged the previously stable democracy into crisis, was also present.

"The Malian people are going through a very difficult period, starved for unity. I will apply myself to that," Traore said.

Traore said he was getting "better every day" after suffering a head injury when a mob of protesters against his appointment burst into his office on May 21 and beat him. He had been recovering in Paris ever since.

Fighters have strengthened their hold on the vast desert north of Mali, which they seized after the coup.

Diarra had been trying to cobble together a wider unity government on the orders of mediators from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc to deal with the mounting crisis.

"Each of us has a debt to repay to Mali... In return I assure you that if you trust in us, Mali will soon be free of irredentism, religious terrorism and other forms of insecurity endangering the peace of citizens," he said on Saturday.

ECOWAS wants to send a 3,000-strong military force to Mali, but is waiting for United Nations approval and a formal request from Bamako from a more inclusive government.

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