Mali envoys hold talks in Nigeria

2012-04-03 18:27

Abuja - A delegation sent by Mali's new military rulers held talks with officials in regional powerhouse Nigeria on Tuesday after West African nations imposed sanctions in response to last month's coup.

"We came here for a mission to tell the Nigerian authorities how the situation is in Mali," Colonel Blonkoro Samake told journalists through a translator before his three-member team held talks with Foreign Minister Olugbenga Ashiru.

"With the authorisation of president Amadou Sanogo, he mandated us to come and see the Nigerian authorities to come and explain how the situation is in Mali."

A Nigerian foreign ministry source said discussions would include the possibility of persuading the junta led by Sanogo, who led a coup on March 22, to relinquish power in exchange for some form of amnesty.

The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) has slapped an embargo on Mali which also cuts the putschists off from the regional central bank in Dakar, affecting their ability to pay public wages.

The bloc, which includes Nigeria, will also put in place a military standby force, after earlier putting some 2 000 regional troops on alert.

A band of low-ranking officers led by Sanogo ousted the Mali government over its alleged failure to take action on a rekindled Tuareg insurgency in the north.

The power vacuum played into the hands of the insurgents - Tuareg separatists and radical Islamists - who have captured key towns in the vast arid north virtually unopposed.

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