Mali junta agrees power handover deal with neighbors

BAMAKO Fri Apr 6, 2012 6:32pm EDT

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BAMAKO (Reuters) - The leaders of Mali's coup and neighboring countries have agreed a plan under which the two-week-old junta will hand over power in return for the end of trade and diplomatic sanctions, the junta and regional mediators announced 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 organize elections.

The five-page agreement 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 a rebellion by nomadic Tuaregs who have seized the northern half of the country, a transition structure would need to be created.

The announcement came on the day that the northern rebels declared independence of the territory they call Azawad, a call immediately rejected by African neighbors and foreign capitals from Paris to Washington.

(Reporting by Bate Felix and Adama Diarra; writing by Mark John; Editing by Myra MacDonald)

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