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West African bloc urges no sanctions against Burkina Faso


DAKAR (Reuters) – The West African regional bloc ECOWAS called on the international community not to impose sanctions on Burkina Faso after the military took control of a transition following the resignation of longtime President Blaise Compaore.

At an extraordinary summit in the Ghanaian capital Accra on Thursday, ECOWAS welcomed statements by new head of state Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida that he would hand power to a civilian transitional government soon.

ECOWAS, which has called for a year-long transition to elections in November 2015, named Senegalese President Macky Sall as its lead mediator with the transitional government, according to a statement issued after the meeting.

Zida, operational commander of the elite presidential guard, proclaimed himself president on Nov. 1, one day after Compaore resigned and fled the country amid mass protests at his efforts to change the constitution to seek reelection in 2015 after 27 years in power.

The Peace and Security Council of the 54-nation African Union, which imposes sanctions for breaches of democratic process, on Monday gave the military a two-week deadline to return power to civilians or face punishment.

“The summit appeals to the International Community and partners not to impose sanctions on Burkina Faso in the light of the on-going regional efforts and to continue supporting the country at these delicate times,” ECOWAS said in a statement published on its website.

The United States said last week it had not decided if the military takeover constituted a coup, a distinction that would lead to an automatic suspension of military aid to one of the West’s key allies against Islamist groups in the region.

Bisa Williams, deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs of the U.S. State Department, said after talks with Zida in Ouagadougou on Saturday that Washington was relying on Zida’s promises to implement a civilian-led transition government that would hold democratic elections in a short period of time.

Representatives of the army, the opposition and civil society met for the first time on Saturday to draft a document on the form the transitional government would take. A source involved in the talks said that it proposed a government of 25 members and an interim legislative body of 90 people.

“We are at the stage where we are amending all the propositions point by point. But the document is almost ready,” said Herve Ouattara, head of a civil society organisation involved in the talks.

He said there was intense discussion over who would occupy key portfolios in the transitional government such as foreign affairs and mining.

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