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ECOWAS defence ministers meet on Mali, G.Bissau: official
by Staff Writers
Lagos (AFP) Sept 16, 2012

West African defence and foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting Monday in the Ivorian capital Abidjan on the political and security crises in Mali and Guinea Bissau, an official statement said.

The extraordinary meeting will consider reports presented by the president of the ECOWAS Commission, Desire Kadre Ouedraogo, on the political and security situations in the two countries, the ECOWAS statement said.

The foreign ministers of Burkina Faso and Nigeria will also brief the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council meeting on the mediation efforts in Mali and Guinea Bissau, respectively, it said.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is trying to broker an end to the political crises in Mali -- which has been effectively sliced in two after a putsch -- and in impoverished Guinea-Bissau, which suffered a coup in April.

Ivory Coast's Chief of Defence Staff, who is also the chairman of the Committee of the ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff, will also brief the Council on the outcome of the two-day committee meeting which ended on Saturday in Abidjan.

The defence chiefs have held several meetings as part of ECOWAS efforts towards the resolution of the crises in Mali and Guinea Bissau following the coups d'état which interrupted constitutional rule in both countries, and the separatist rebellion in northern Mali.

The Council's meeting comes in the wake of the formal request by the government of Mali for ECOWAS military assistance to recover the occupied territory in the north of the country and combat terrorism, the statement said.

ECOWAS has had 3,300 regional troops on standby for months but was awaiting a formal request from the Malian authorities to seek UN Security Council approval for a military deployment.

The country was considered one of the region's stable democracies until a March coup plunged it into turmoil.

Taking advantage of the chaos, Islamic extremists allied to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb seized key towns in the vast desert north, an area larger than France or Texas.

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