Mali junta backs down as rebels seize Timbuktu

BAMAKO, (Reuters) – Mali’s junta yielded to the threat of sanctions yesterday, pledging to start handing power back to civilians before a midnight deadline, while in the north, separatist rebels seized the ancient trading post of Timbuktu.

Amadou Sanogo, an army captain who led a March 21 coup, pledged to reinstate the constitution and all state institutions before transferring power back to civilians via elections. His promise followed last week’s threat by West African regional bloc ECOWAS to impose sanctions, including the potentially crippling closure of borders around the land-locked state.

There was no immediate reaction from ECOWAS. However, the steps were two measures outlined earlier by an envoy of Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, the crisis mediator, as essential pre-conditions for Mali to avoid sanctions.

West African leaders are due to meet in Dakar on Monday, and will discuss Mali on the sidelines of the swearing in of Senegal’s new president, Macky Sall, Senegal’s APS news agency said.

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