April 04 - Mali's junta ignores a new demand from its neighbours to hand over power to civilian rule. Paul Chapman reports.
PLEASE NOTE: EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL Mali's junta isn't even acknowledging a new demand by neighbouring countries to hand over power to civilian rule. The junta's repeated an offer of open-ended talks. Its leader is sticking to plans for a convention to decide what form a transition to civilian rule should take. SOUNDBITE: CAPTAIN AMADOU SANOGO, JUNTA LEADER, SAYING (French): "We are inviting the political class and all civil society representatives to be present without exception at a national convention that will start on Thursday April 5th in order for us Malians to decide what will be good for our country in a consensual manner, democratically, and in freedom." The widely-condemned military power-grab in Mali has further emboldened Tuareg rebels to step up their fight for a separate homeland in the north. They've been joined by Islamists keen to impose sharia law on the whole of the moderate Muslim state. At the weekend the rebels seized the key northern garrison town of Gao after fierce fighting. They've also taken Kidal and Timbuktu. The unrest has been fuelled by weapons brought out of Libya during last year's conflict there. Mali is a former French colony. The French ambassador to the United Nations says France won't intervene. SOUNDBITE: GERARD ARAUD, FRANCE'S AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. SAYING (English): "It's to our African friends to solve the problem. As for the sanctions, it's a decision by ECOWAS." Malians have been rushing to stock up on essentials after Monday's decision by the ECOWAS West Africa bloc to press ahead with its threatened sanctions. It's also due to discuss the activation of a standby military force but there are no details yet on how that would be deployed. Paul Chapman, Reuters