News24

Ecowas rejects Islamic state claim in N Mali

2012-05-29 11:44

Lagos - West African bloc Ecowas on Monday rejected a rebel declaration of an independent Islamic state in northern Mali and repeated an earlier threat to take "all necessary measures" to keep the country intact.

The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States "denounces in the strongest possible terms this opportunistic act", said a statement signed by Ecowas head Desire Kadre Ouedraogo.

It said the move would "only worsen the situation for a population that has already been the victim of all sorts of atrocities and hardships in the occupied area of Mali, as well as expose the entire region to the most serious dangers regarding peace and security".

The statement said Mali's territorial integrity was "non-negotiable".

"Ecowas sees the recent events as a serious threat to peace and security both regionally and internationally," the statement said.

"It reiterates its offer to search for negotiated solutions to all legitimate claims, but stresses its determination to take all necessary measures to prevent northern Mali from becoming a lawless area controlled by terrorist networks and like-minded criminals ..."

The declaration of a separate Islamic state in Mali's vast desert north came at the weekend and was made by Islamist movement Ansar Dine and secular Tuareg group the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).

Ansar Dine is backed by al-Qaeda's north African branch, known as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Ecowas has been preparing a 3 000-strong force for a potential deployment to Mali. The bloc is said to be waiting for a formal request from Malian authorities before sending in troops.

Mali is still reeling from a 22 March coup which created a power vacuum, with Islamist and Tuareg rebels seizing control of the entire north.