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    ECOWAS Lifts Sanctions Against Mali

    Former Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure (File Photo)
    Former Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure (File Photo)

    The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has lifted sanctions against Mali, saying it is convinced the leaders of a military coup are committed to restoring constitutional rule.

    ECOWAS communications director Sonny Ugoh says the military's efforts have been "sufficiently strong," but that the international community stands ready to "react appropriately" if the deal breaks down.

    "We want to believe that the military junta can be trusted, and on that basis we have lifted the sanctions. And it would be dangerous for them to renege on their commitment to ECOWAS because I can't possibly see how a member state can live in isolation of its neighbors -- that's not possible, particularly against the background of the political, the economic and the financial sanctions," said Ugoh.

    Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure submitted his resignation Sunday, weeks after being toppled by the coup. He said he stepped down without pressure and out of love for the country.

    "I think the decision taken by ECOWAS and the international community is the best," said Toure. "It's necessary that Mali continues in the provisions of its constitution of February 1992. As a consequence, I think it's normal and I do it without any pressure at all and I do it in good faith and most of all for the love I have for this country."

    Under a deal reached Friday, former Malian speaker of parliament Dioncounda Traore will serve as president with a transitional government until elections are held.

    ECOWAS pledged to help Mali fight the Tuareg rebels who have seized much of the country's north and proclaimed an independent state there following the military coup.

    The coup leaders justified their takeover by denouncing what they said was the former government's ineffectual campaign to suppress the Tuareg rebellion.

    The U.S. State Department Sunday evacuated all Peace Corps volunteers and offered all non-essential diplomatic personnel flights out of the country.

    U.S. officials say the situation in Mali remains fluid and unpredictable. It also says there is a threat of kidnappings and attacks against Westerners in the north.

    Mali's neighbors all criticized both the military coup and the new "Azawad" state declared by the northern rebels, who got help from the radical Islamist group Ansar Dine.

    The self-styled National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) controls the cities of Timbuktu, Gao and other areas in the north. It declared its independence Friday and said its military campaign is over. The heavily armed Tuaregs, formerly based in Moammar Gadhafi's Libya, began fighting in northern Mali in January.

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