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New Mali PM crafts unity government to win back north
by Staff Writers
Bamako (AFP) Dec 12, 2012

New Mali PM has 'respect' of US
Washington (AFP) Dec 12, 2012 - The United States on Wednesday described the new prime minister of Mali as a man respected by US officials and urged him to move swiftly to form a new government to lead the troubled country.

Diango Cissoko was appointed prime minister by the west African nation's interim president, Dioncounda Traore, just hours after Cheick Modibo Diarra quit as premier under pressure Tuesday from former putchists.

"Django Cissoko... is somebody that we know and we respect, and we want to see him now form a government that can provide political leadership going towards an election in the spring, or as soon as we can get there," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

But she reiterated that Washington continued to have concerns about what former coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo "is up to, and we think that he and his forces need to be marginalized so that we can have real security both in Bamako and moving north."

Interim authorities in Bamako have remained deadlocked and powerless in the wake of the occupation of northern and eastyerm Mali by Al-Qaeda linked extremists who piggybacked on a Tuareg rebellion that kicked off in January.

A March coup by frustrated soldiers did not fail to stop the rebel advance, and Islamists seized the vast but mostly arid north in a matter of days, later chasing out their Tuareg allies.

The United States and allies have been hammering out plans for a UN-mandated African-led force to be deployed in northern Mali to root out Islamist militias which have unleashed a reign of terror on the region.

But differences have flared over how and when to deploy the force, with US envoy to the United Nations Susan Rice reportedly clashing sharply with France over a plan put forward by the African Union.

Nuland stressed Washington wanted "a draft that is going to hold up" and produce results, adding "we're very much in consultations with our partners. We're working it through with the French now, as allies do."

One of differences appeared to be over whether to deploy troops straight away in northern Mali, or whether it should happen in two stages to allow some training of the forces first.

"We want to ensure that once we get to UN Security Council action that we're going to end up with a force that can do what it's mandated to do, can really provide security on the ground, can meet the needs, can help Malian forces go north," Nuland said. "So these things have to be worked through carefully."

Rice told reporters at the United Nations the United States wanted "the swiftest possible restoration of democratic government in Bamako" and was committed to ensuring there was "not an enduring safe haven for terrorists in the north of Mali."

She said the UN Security Council was working on a resolution to "address in particular the challenge of restoring sovereignty and territorial integrity and ridding terrorists from the north of Mali."

Mali's new Prime Minister Diango Cissoko started drawing up a new unity government Wednesday that could bring the consensus needed to launch a foreign military intervention in the Islamist-occupied north.

While Cissoko pledged to regain control of the country's north, international condemnation poured in over the ouster of his predecessor Cheick Modibo Diarra and meddling by a former junta still seen as pulling the strings in the capital.

The new premier has not mentioned the international force which has been mired in uncertainty, but observers say Diarra was seen as an obstacle to reaching consensus and a new government could pave the way to its deployment.

EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton on Wednesday hailed Cissoko's nomination, saying that he was a gifted negotiator with good knowledge of Mali's political scene who had an ability to bring people together.

Gilles Yabi of the International Crisis Group told AFP that "optimistically" Cissoko could "unblock the situation. He is a more reliable, competent and impartial representative than Diarra was."

France, the United States, United Nations, African and European Union have roundly condemned the way in which Diarra resigned and urged the military to stop meddling in political affairs.

The regional bloc ECOWAS' chief mediator, Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore said Wednesday that Diarra's resignation had not "respected the rules of law."

"But we hope that a new government will be set up very soon and will begin work with great determination to ensure a more fruitful internal dialogue and mobilise the full spectrum of Mali's political and social forces to deal with this crisis."

The United Nations Security Council, which is awaiting more details on the mission before giving it the green-light, has said it remains committed to "authorising as soon as possible the deployment of an African-led international support mission in Mali."

France, a staunch backer of the military option to drive out the Islamists, said the most recent turmoil in Bamako "underlines the need to deploy an African stabilisation force."

Cissoko, a veteran public servant, was swiftly appointed by interim leader Dioncounda Traore after Diarra's strongarmed resignation on Tuesday, and vowed his priority was to regain control of the north from Islamists.

"The priority is the recovery of the north and the organisation of elections.... I want to create a government of national unity," Cissoko told AFP.

"I want to tell Malians that they must get together, because it's only a unified people that can confront their problems."

Interim authorities in Bamako have remained deadlocked and powerless in the wake of the occupation of the north by Al-Qaeda linked extremists who piggybacked on a Tuareg rebellion that kicked off in January.

A March coup by frustrated soldiers did not fail to stop the rebel advance, and Islamists seized the vast north in a matter of days, later chasing out their Tuareg allies.

They have since implemented a brutal form of sharia law, flogging, stoning and amputating the hands of transgressors.

Alarmed by the growing threat of having "terrorist groups" occupying an area larger than France, western powers' interest in driving out the Islamists grew.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) proposed a force of 3,300 regional troops to intervene, and European countries as well as the United States have offered logistical support and training.

The plan has been approved in principle by the United Nations which wants more details on its capabilities and financing.

However deep divisions remain in Bamako and west Africa between those who want a negotiated solution and those who seek the military option.

UN experts warn that any deployment is unlikely for another nine months.

Diarra's resignation came a day after the EU approved plans to deploy a military training mission of some 250 troops to Mali to help the government regain control of the vast semi-desert north.


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UN, US lead condemnation of Mali PM's ouster
Paris (AFP) Dec 12, 2012
The UN and the US are condemning the forced resignation of Malian Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra, which Washington called a "setback" in the West African nation's efforts to restore democracy. Diarra quit Tuesday under pressure from influential former putschists opposed to a military intervention to drive out Islamists occupying the northern half of the country and imposing a brutal int ... read more

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