West African envoys suspend talks with Mali's military junta

Mali’s leadership crisis may linger longer.

West African mediators have suspended talks with Mali's military junta Monday after failing to reach an agreement on who will lead the volatile country during a transitional back to democracy after last week's coup and how long that process will take, a diplomat said.

The junta calling itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People has proposed pushing back Mali's next election until 2023, while leaders from the regional West African bloc known as ECOWAS and others want a return to civilian rule as soon as possible.

A diplomat who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to journalists said meetings with the junta that seized power last week have been suspended for now.

The diplomat said as long as it's unclear who will lead Mali and how long it will be until the country's next election ECOWAS will keep its sanctions on Mali to maintain pressure on the junta.

Leaders from ECOWAS, who initially called for ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to be returned to power, have suspended Malian's membership in the 15-nation bloc and have closed their borders with the country.

The ECOWAS delegation headed to Bamako's airport Monday, hours after junta spokesman Ismael Wague told reporters that no timeline for the transition back to democracy had been established but that the Malian people would be consulted.

But one participant in the negotiations between the military leaders and neighboring countries said the junta wants to revise Mali's constitution first and suggested 2023 for a new election. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

That time frame, though, is more than double the time it took to hold a vote after a similar coup in 2012, and would allow the soldiers who overthrew a democratically elected president to remain in power for years.

Right after the coup, ECOWAS leaders said they were considering mobilizing a standby military force to restore civilian rule, but that prospect has become unlikely after thousands took to the streets of the capital Friday to support the junta.


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