EU calls for new Mali PM, army to stay out of politics
(BRUSSELS) - EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton on Tuesday called on Mali to appoint a new prime minister acceptable to all sides and urged the military to cease interfering in political life.
Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra resigned Tuesday just hours after former coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo ordered soldiers to arrest him at his home, plunging Mali deeper into chaos after Islamist rebels seized the north.
With the EU preparing to send a military training mission to Mali aimed at helping it regain control of the north, Ashton called on the interim president to appoint a new prime minister and an inclusive government quickly.
Mali equally needed a roadmap to restore constitutional government and provide for new elections, she reiterated in a statement, with the army and security forces coming under civilian control.
There had to be a mechanism and a strategy for reunification through dialogue, Ashton said, adding that the military had to stay out of politics and support the return to constitutional governance.
Asked about the status of the training mission, a spokesman for Ashton said that "despite recent events, preparation ... is continuing but we will be particularly attentive of the attitude taken by the military.
"We are watching the situation very carefully," the spokesman said, adding that the EU was was hoping a new prime minister would be appointed very soon.
On Monday, EU foreign ministers had approved plans to deploy an EU military training mission of some 250 troops Mali to help the government regain control of the vast semi-desert north from Islamist rebels.
"The presence of terrorist groups and the oppression of local populations in the north of Mali, as well as human rights violations, not only pose a grave threat to the Sahel region, but also to north Africa and to Europe," Ashton said after the decision Monday.
Under the plan, some 250 EU officers would be sent to train Malian combat units and help restructure the country's weakened army.
It aims to train four battalions, or a total of 2,600 troops, near Segou, 250 kilometres (155 miles) north of Bamako.
The EU on Sunday said it was offering another 20 million euros ($26 million) in humanitarian aid for the country, bringing the total to 101 million euros.