Mali: Traore puts final touches on unity govt
Dioncounda Traore Mali's Interim President
Bamako - Mali's interim president put the final touches on a unity government on Monday, the eve of a deadline set by foreign partners, taking the lead in negotiations after sidelining his unpopular premier.
The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) has given Mali's interim authorities until 31 July to form the unity government, expected to be better able to deal with the occupation of the north by hardline Islamists.
Interim President Dioncounda Traore got straight to work upon his return to Bamako following two months in Paris recovering from an attack by opponents, announcing on Sunday the creation of new bodies tasked with ending the crisis.
In a televised address to the nation, he announced he would be in charge of a High Council of State, lead talks for a unity government himself and create a committee to negotiate with the Islamists controlling Mali's north.
Some observers saw the announcements as a sign Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra was being pushed aside, after key political parties called for his resignation, accusing him of "incompetence and amateurishness".
"It is a turning point in the crisis," Malian sociologist Mamadou Diarra told AFP.
"It is clear that with the new team, the prime minister's powers are really reduced. Traore gave a rallying speech whereas the prime minister used partisan language," Diarra said, praising the president's address.
However Communications Minister Hamadoun Toure said this was a "false reading" of the president's speech.
The High Council of State is designed to "complete the country's institutional architecture" and "adapt it to socio-political realities".
It will be made up of the interim president and two vice-presidents, one of whom will be in charge of defence and security and handling the four-month-old crisis in the north. The other will represent the various non-political forces in Mali.
Traore also announced that "neither the president, nor the prime minister, nor the ministers, can run in the next presidential election."
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