African leaders scrap Mali trip after runway invasion

BAMAKO/ABIDJAN,  (Reuters) – Jets carrying West African presidents for a meeting with Mali’s new military leaders were forced to turn back mid-flight yesterday after hundreds of supporters of last week’s coup invaded Bamako’s main runway.

An official from regional bloc ECOWAS said the meeting, aimed at pressuring coup leaders to swiftly restore constitutional rule after they ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure, could be rescheduled for today if security allowed.

“It was called off after the junta allowed demonstrators onto the tarmac,” the official said, asking not to be named. “Understandably this created a security scare forcing the heads of state to suspend their arrival.”

Pro-junta protesters at Bamako airport, some carrying banners reading “ECOWAS, let us solve our own problems” and “ECOWAS, shame of Africa”, streamed onto the runway before junta leader Captain Amadou Sanogo persuaded them to leave.

Mali’s neighbours say they are ready to use sanctions and possible military force to dislodge its new army leaders. The United States and former colonial ruler France have condemned the coup.

Five leaders – from Ivory Coast, Niger, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Liberia – gathered at Abdijan airport on Thursday to discuss the next step. The sixth member of the planned delegation, Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan, remained in Nigeria, sources said.

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