Interim leader to take over from Mali junta

Mali's speaker of parliment, Dioncounda Traore (R), will be the interim president.

BAMAKO - Mali's interim president was to be sworn in Thursday, taking over from the junior officers who staged last month's coup, but with half the country still in the hands of Islamists and Tuareg rebels.

Dioncounda Traore, speaker of the parliament, due to be sworn in at 0900 GMT, will have to form a transitional government expected to comprise some 20 members, which he has said could include former members of the outgoing junta.

Traore was due to meet with the country's key military and civilian officials this weekend to hammer out the details of the transitional period.

Under the agreement that the outgoing junta, led by Captain Amadou Sanogo, agreed with with the West African bloc ECOWAS, Traore has been tasked with organising elections to complete a return to democratic rule.

The northern half of the country however is now in the hands of a the Tuareg rebel Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA), armed Islamist groups, as well as arms and drug traffickers.

Aid groups have also warned of a humanitarian crisis and abuses against civilians in the lawless area, hit by drought and acute food shortages, where more than 200,000 people have been displaced by the fighting this year.

Former president Amadou Toumani Toure, toppled on March 22 in the military coup, formally resigned his position over the weekend.

The junta's leaders agreed to stand down once Toure had formally quit.

ECOWAS has also lifted its sanctions against land-locked Mali and agreed to give amnesty to all those involved in the coup as part of the transition deal.

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