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September 26, 2017

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Interim gov't 'in days': Mali junta

BAMAKO--Mali's junta leader said on Saturday a power handover agreed to with neighboring countries would take place in a matter of days with the appointment of an interim government of national unity.

The March 22 coup by disgruntled soldiers plunged the West African country into chaos and emboldened Tuareg rebels who have declared an independent state in the north of Mali.

Mali's neighbors, who fiercely criticized the coup, said the military government would have to step down before they could help tackle the rebels. Late on Friday the junta announced it had agreed to begin a power handover in return for the lifting of tough trade and other sanctions.

"It is the will of the committee (junta) to quickly move towards the transition," Captain Amadou Sanogo said at the military barracks outside the capital Bamako which has been the headquarters of his two-week-old rule.

"In the next few days you will see a prime minister and a government in place," Sanogo said in an interview with Reuters, France's i-tele and the Spanish-language channel Telesur.

A five-page accord agreed by Sanogo and the 15-state West African bloc ECOWAS for a return to constitutional order did not specify when the handover would start.

The agreement calls for ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure, who is still in hiding, to resign. Sanogo's junta must then make way for a unity government with Mali's parliament speaker Diouncounda Traore as interim president.

New elections would then follow as soon as possible given the widespread lack of security in the north, where the Tuaregs swept in, accompanied by groups of Islamists with links to al-Qaida.

Sanogo, dressed in battle fatigues and showing signs of tiredness after three days of intense negotiations, called on ECOWAS countries to help the Malian army with transport and logistics rather than send ground troops as they are discussing.

"The Malian army still needs help precisely on logistics and air support but not ground troops to help us solve the security problem in northern Mali," said Sanogo.

"We have to sit and talk. If they want to help us it should be according to our needs," he added.

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