"Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo," said Bictogo, "has launched the process to put into effect Article 36 of the Constitution of Feb. 25, 1992, allowing thereby a return to constitutional order in Mali. As a result, the president of ECOWAS ... has decided to immediately lift all the sanctions against Mali."
Ever since the coup, Mali President Amadou Toumani Toure has been in hiding, and his whereabouts remain unknown. Article 36 of the constitution states that in the event of a vacancy of power, the head of the assembly becomes interim president for 21 to 40 days. However, the accord read out late Friday by Sanogo indicated that this timeframe will likely need to be extended.
Besides the coup, Mali is battling a rebellion in the north. The ethnic Tuareg rebels took advantage of the post-coup chaos to make military gains, seizing the capitals of the three northern provinces last week. On Friday, they declared independence, stating that the northern half of Mali _ an area larger than France _ was now a new country.
The military chiefs of Mali's neighbors met in Ivory Coast this week to prepare plans for a military intervention. Bictogo on Saturday stressed that the military operation would go ahead if the rebels do not back down.
"In what concerns the armed rebellion in the north of Mali," he said, "(we) demand the strict respect of Mali's territorial integrity. In this regard, the committee of the heads of state of ECOWAS which met on April 5, 2012 has taken all the necessary preparatory measures for a rapid deployment of troops by ECOWAS in order to stop any further evolution" of the conflict, he said.
Associated Press writers Baba Ahmed and Martin Vogl in Bamako, Mali, and Brahima Ouedraogo in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, contributed to this report.