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Malian coup leader's pledge over constitution


Mali's junta leader declared amid international pressure yesterday that he was reinstating the 1992 constitution and planning to hold elections, as rebels claimed to have seized the historic town of Timbuktu.

Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo added that he would organise a national convention to agree on a transitional government to plan free and fair elections. What he did not make clear is when the convention would be held, when elections would take place or whether he would remain president during the transitional period. Capt Sanogo's announcement came as Tuareg rebels claimed to have "control of the entire region" of Timbuktu in the north of the country, deepening the crisis in the West African nation.

Tuareg rebels took advantage of the chaos surrounding last week's coup in the capital, Bamako, to take the town of Kidal, 800 miles away, on Friday. They seized Gao, the biggest northern city, on Saturday.

Mali, once a model of democracy, was plunged into crisis on 21 March when a mutiny erupted at the Kati military camp, about six miles from the presidential palace.

Capt Sanogo's coup reversed 21 years of democracy, and sent President Amadou Toumani Touré into hiding. Mali's neighbours had given the country a 72-hour deadline to restore constitutional order or else face crippling sanctions. Capt Sanogo's declaration appears intended to stave these off.