US won’t restore aid to Mali until military cedes power

“We are currently reviewing and revising our assistance programs. We intend to continue close coordination with our partners in the international donor community and with the newly elected Malian government to ensure that any renewed assistance addresses Mali’s most pressing needs in an efficient and effective manner.”

Aid was suspended last April after Army Capt. Amadou Sanogo overthrew President Amadou Toumani Toure, creating a political crisis that precipitated a takeover of the country's desert north by Islamists and semi-nomadic rebels. The split prompted a U.S.-backed intervention by French and African forces to rout the al Qaeda-linked Islamists.

President Obama on Tuesday praised the election of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita as a step toward restoring democracy. His inauguration will help unlock $4 billion in international assistance for Mali.

“Through the Interim Government's management of a peaceful, inclusive, and credible electoral process, and with the extraordinary turnout of the Malian people, this election has helped restore Mali's democratic tradition,” Obama said. “We encourage the candidates and their supporters to accept the results, and to use this election as a foundation for further progress on democracy, national reconciliation, and addressing the security and humanitarian crises in the north.”

Sanogo's promotion to four-star general last week, however, has tempered U.S. enthusiasm.

“The United States is disappointed with the decision of Mali’s interim government to promote coup-leader Sanogo to the rank of General,” the State Department official said. “Such a move violates the Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS] principle of zero tolerance for coup leaders.”

The official said even if the administration concludes that Mali is once again democratic, the State Department will work with Congress to redefine some of the aid to meet new conditions on the ground.

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