US to keep pressure on Mali
Washington - The United States said on Thursday that it would keep up pressure on Mali's coup leaders in the hope they would step down after an African mediator raised the prospect of lifting sanctions.
State Department spokesperson Mark Toner hoped that sanctions against coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo - which have included a closing of landlocked Mali's borders to fuel and other imports - would have "a strong impact.
"The choice is clear - Sanogo and his compatriots need to reinstitute civilian rule with an eye towards near-term elections," Toner told reporters.
"We're not looking to ease sanctions in any way on Mali right now. We want to keep the pressure up," Toner said.
Burkina Faso's Foreign Minister Djibrill Bassole said after a meeting with Sanogo that the coup leader had "the right attitude" and that sanctions could be lifted soon.
But west African military chiefs were also discussing the possible deployment of a 2 000-strong force after a chunk of Mali the size of France fell into the hands of Tuareg separatists and Islamists.
Mali has been in crisis since disgruntled troops swarmed the capital Bamako on March 22 and chased out of power President Amadou Toumani Toure, accusing him of failing to offer sufficient supplies to put down the rebellion.
But the insurgents have since taken advantage of the chaos and made rapid advances against minimal resistance.
The African Union and the Economic Community of West African States have taken the lead on sanctions, including closing the borders, freezing assets and banning travel by coup leaders.
The United States has also imposed a travel ban and cut off more than $13m seen as directly going to the government, including for construction of schools and for programmes to improve maternal- and children's health.