The United States is calling for the restoration of civilian authority in Mali, after soldiers on Thursday announced they have taken power in a coup d'état. U.S. officials are reconsidering non-humanitarian assistance to Mali, following the takeover.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says the Obama administration stands with the legitimately-elected government of President Amadou Toumani Toure. She says Mali has been a leading democracy in West Africa and its democratic institutions must be respected.
"The United States condemns the military seizure of power in Mali. We echo the statements of the African Union, of ECOWAS, and of other international partners in denouncing these actions. We've called for calm. We've called for restoration of the civilian government under constitutional rule without delay, so that the elections can proceed as scheduled," Nuland said.
Mali was due to hold elections next month in which President Toure was expected to step down at the end of his second term. Nuland says Washington hopes that the military action can be "quickly reversed," so Mali can get back to democratic governance.
With soldiers holding the presidential palace in Mali, there have been reports that President Toure is in or near the U.S. embassy in Bamako. Nuland says that is not true.
The United States provides as much as $140 million a year in non-humanitarian security, economic and financial assistance to Mali. Nuland says U.S. officials are meeting to determine what, if any of that assistance is appropriate to continue. Humanitarian aid will not be affected.
Mutinous soldiers say they moved against President Toure because of what they cite as is his incompetence in fighting a rebellion by ethnic Tuareg rebels in northern Mali. The January resumption of that conflict followed the return to Mali of Tuareg fighters, who were previously allied with former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Nuland says the change of power in Libya has affected security in the Sahel, with rebels again fighting for an independent, Islamic state.
"It's certainly true that there has been increasing concern inside Mali about Tuareg activity over the last number of months, in particular since the Tuaregs have had less to fight about in Libya and have moved on to Mali," she said.
Tuareg rebels have taken charge of several towns in the north in fighting that the United Nations says has driven at least 130,000 people from their homes.
With Mali's borders closed, mutinous soldiers say their new National Committee for the Recovery of Democracy and the Restoration of the State will hold elections after the country's territorial integrity is restored.