The leaders of Mali's coup and neighbouring countries have reached a deal under which the two-week-old military junta will hand over power in return for the end of trade and diplomatic sanctions.
Mali's military junta and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc announced the deal on Malian state television late on Friday.
Under the plan, signed by mediators and junta leader Captain Amadou Sanogo, the military government will hand over power to parliament speaker Diouncounda Traore who will be sworn in as interim president with a mission to organise elections.
Sanogo said the new prime minister and government will be put in place "in the next few days".
The deal also includes the lifting of sanctions clamped by ECOWAS on Mali and an amnesty for those involved in the coup.
The embargo included the closing of all borders of ECOWAS states with Mali except for humanitarian reasons, closing to Mali access to ECOWAS ports, and the freezing of Malian bank accounts.
Sanctions will be lifted
Alassane Ouattara, the president of the Ivory Coast who currently holds the rotating ECOWAS presidency, said the sanctions should be lifted "immediately", Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibrill Bassole told public television station ORTM.
Bassole has been acting as a mediator during the crisis.
He also said President Amadou Toumani Toure, who was overthrown on March 22 and has since not been seen in public, should be able to live where he wants under army protection.
The five-page agreement provides a framework for a return to constitutional rule under the interim leader who will also handle the crisis in the north, where Islamists and Tuareg rebels have seized control.
The deal did not give a timetable for Sanogo to step down, but said the 15-state ECOWAS regional grouping would immediately prepare the end of tough sanctions including the closure of trade borders to the land-locked country.
The statement added that if elections were not possible within the 40 days set out by the constitution due to Tuaregs’ rebellion in the north, a transition structure would need to be created.
Rebellion in north
The announcement came on the day that the northern rebels declared independence of the territory they call Azawad, a call immediately rejected by African neighbours and foreign capitals from Paris to Washington.
If a ceasefire is not agreed to, however, ECOWAS forces will fight alongside the Malian miltiary to take on the Tuareg rebels, Bassole said.
It would take ECOWAS forces three months to prepare for deployment, according to the mediator.
Sanogo, however, indicated that the Malian military was seeking logistical support, rather than the deployment of foreign forces.
"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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|Liaquat Ali Khan|