Diplomat named Mali PM, meeting regional bloc demand for civilian

FILE PHOTO: Malian Foreign Minister Moctar Ouane attends a foreign ministers' meeting in Algiers March 16, 2010. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi/File Photo

BAMAKO (Reuters) – Former foreign minister Moctar Ouane was named as Mali’s interim prime minister, state television said on Sunday, a move likely to trigger the lifting of sanctions imposed by the West Africa regional bloc in the aftermath of the military coup last month.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said on Friday it would lift sanctions, which have caused imports to the landlocked country to slump 30%, once a civilian premier was named.

It had softened initial demands that a purely civilian leadership be installed, and the appointment of Ouane comes two days after retired colonel Bah Ndaw was sworn in as president, and coup-leader Colonel Assimi Goita as vice president.

International powers feared the coup could further destabilise the country and undermine a joint fight against Islamist insurgents there and in the wider Sahel region.

A veteran diplomat, Ouane, 64, served as Mali’s ambassador to the United Nations in 1995-2002, and as foreign minister in 2004-2011.

The men will be tasked with overseeing an 18-month transition back to civilian rule after the Aug. 18 overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Ndaw, a retired colonel and former defence minister, signed a decree authorising Ouane’s selection, which the M5-RFP coalition of opposition groups welcomed, even though he was not their first choice.

“The M5-RFP must be willing to focus on the struggle, the reforms, the transparent elections, the crisis in the north and the centre… to support men capable of bringing the country out of this crisis,” said Nouhoum Togo, the group’s spokesman.

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