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Mali’s prime minister forced to resign

Soldiers arrest leader at home; military in charge

- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 11, 2012

BAMAKO, Mali — Soldiers arrested Mali's prime minister and ordered him to resign, showing that the military is still the real power in the capital of this large West African country even though soldiers made a show of returning control back to civilian leaders several months after launching a coup in March.

Prime Minister Cheikh Modibo Diarra, dressed in a dark suit and his forehead glistening with sweat, went on TV at 4 a.m. to announce his resignation. He was reportedly back in his house Tuesday afternoon under military guard.

"Our country is living through a period of crisis. Men and women who are worried about the future of our nation are hoping for peace," he said on TV.

"It's for this reason that I, Cheikh Modibo Diarra, am resigning along with my entire government on this day, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. I apologize before the entire population of Mali."

Despite the forced resignation, the European Union is still planning for a military training mission aimed at giving the Malian army the ability to oust Islamist terrorists who have seized northern Mali, said Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

He added that the EU is watching the situation closely and hopes for the quick appointment of a new prime minister that will lead to credible elections and the restoration of constitutional rule.

EU foreign ministers on Monday approved the concept of an EU training mission for an attempt by Malian and other African troops to deprive the Islamists of a haven and training sites in north Mali, where they have instituted strict Shariah law, including punishment by stoning and amputation. However, Germany's foreign minister indicated the arrest of Mr. Diarra may obstruct the plan.

"One thing is clear. Our offers of help come with the condition that the process of restoring constitutional order in Mali be conducted credibly," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

"A return to constitutional order is a very decisive criteria for our involvement in the military training mission."

Hours before he announced his resignation, Mali's prime minister was arrested by the military in his home, forced into a car and driven to the Kati military camp, the sprawling base where the March 21 coup was launched.

The developments indicate the military is still the real power in Mali, where the northern half fell to Islamist insurgents in the wake of the coup, even though the soldiers made a show months ago of handing power back to civilians.

Mr. Westerwelle said President Dioncounda Traore and other political leaders "must now act responsibly so that Mali returns to stability."

However, Mr. Traore might not have the power to bring the military to heel. In May, Yerewoloton, a violent citizen's movement believed to be backed by the junta, broke through the security cordon at the presidential palace and severely beat Mr. Traore.

A police officer who was on duty Monday night at Bamako's international airport said the same group stormed the airport before the prime minister was to fly to Paris for medical tests.

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