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West Africa proposes plan to resolve Mali crisis;…

BAMAKO, July 27 – West Africa’s regional body on Monday proposed a four-point plan to resolve Mali’s political crisis that it says should be implemented within 10 days, and recommended sanctions against anyone standing in the way.

The proposals by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are similar to those previously made by ECOWAS missions to Mali since the crisis began in early June that have been flatly rejected by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s opponents, who insist that he resign.

The M5-RFP opposition coalition that has spearheaded anti-Keita protests was unimpressed by the ECOWAS proposals.

“We take note, but we really believe that this is not the will of the people, it is not what we expect,” said coalition spokesman Nouhoum Togo, who said it was in the process of reviewing the recommendations.

Tens of thousands of protesters have answered opposition calls to take to the streets in recent weeks, raising concerns the unrest could derail the fight against Islamist extremists in the region.

The demonstrations, caused by contested local elections and perceived government corruption and incompetence, turned into a full-blown crisis this month when police killed protesters. At least 14 people have died in clashes, according to the United Nations.

West African heads of state met via video link on Monday following a visit to the country last week initiated after a previous ECOWAS mission was unable to appease M5-RFP.

“The Heads of State … express deep concerns on this situation likely to increase instability in Mali, and in the sub-region,” ECOWAS said in a statement after the meeting.

Their plan recommended that 31 members of parliament whose elections were contested step down and that by-elections be held. It also called for the creation of a government of national unity that would include members of M5-RFP and said there should be an inquiry on the deaths earlier this month.

Following ECOWAS suggestions, the presidency announced some key initial posts late on Monday that would form the heart of a government of national unity, including the ministers of defence, finance and territorial administration. (Reporting By Edward McAllister; additional reporting by Tiemoko Diallo in Bamako; Editing by Aaron Ross, Philippa Fletcher, Dan Grebler and Richard Chang)

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