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ECOWAS Serves Ultimatum To Mali's New Military Rulers

West African regional grouping ECOWAS on Thursday served an ultimatum to Mali's new military rulers, threatening to impose several punitive measures on the country if power is not returned to the democratically-elected government within 72 hours.

ECOWAS commission president Desire Kadre Ouedraogo told reporters that the sanctions would be enforced if Mali's ruling junta fails to handover power to the civilian government before the deadline set for Monday expires.

The possible sanctions announced by Ouedraogo included closure of Mali's land borders for all but humanitarian goods, freezing of the country's account at the central bank of the West African franc zone, restrictions on its negotiations with private banks in the region, an asset freeze as well as a travel ban on individual junta members and their associates. In addition to these sanctions, Mali's ships would also be access to the ports of the 15-state region.

The development came hours after a plane carrying a high-profile ECOWAS delegation to Mali was prevented from landing at the airport in the country's capital city of Bamako. The jet was forced to turn back in mid-flight after hundreds of supporters of the coup invaded the airport's main runway.

A day earlier, ECOWAS had announced the suspension of Mali's membership from the bloc over the recent coup that ousted the country's democratically elected government. The announcement was made after an emergency meeting of the bloc held in Abidjan, capital of Ivory Coast, to discuss the current situation in Mali and to formulate its response to the coup.

The regional bloc also threatened to use force if necessary to restore Mali's civilian government, warning that regional troops have been put on stand by for possible military intervention if such a move becomes inevitable.

The regional bloc's response came after mutinous soldiers in Mali announced last Thursday that they had seized power after overthrowing the regime of President Amadou Toumani Toure, which they accused of mishandling a military campaign against the separatist insurgency movement in the North.

by RTT Staff Writer

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