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Mali junta, regional negotiators hammer out transition details -sources

BAMAKO, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Mali’s military junta and regional mediators on Monday discussed the make-up and goals of an interim administration following an Aug. 18 coup, rather than the possibility of reinstating the ousted president, sources familiar with the talks said.

West Africa’s regional bloc dispatched negotiators to Mali at the weekend to try to reverse President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s removal from power, but diplomats say his reinstatement is highly unlikely given the popularity of the coup.

The parties said on Sunday that they reached agreement on certain points during talks that lasted around nine hours, but some outstanding issues remained.

Talks are taking place with the threat of regional sanctions hanging over the junta, known as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), which arrested Keita last week. However, the regional branch of West Africa’s BCEAO central bank reopened on Monday.

Four sources, who have direct contact with people involved in talks, said there was not yet any agreement on the time frame of the transition or who would run it but Keita would not be involved.

Two sources said a year-long transition, similar to the one in Niger following a 2010 coup, was on the table. Another source said the junta was eager to prioritise reforms over elections so it could be longer.

Colonel Ismael Wague, spokesman for the junta, on Monday denied reports by French radio RFI that the CNSP wanted a three-year transition led by a soldier and mostly made up of the military.

“I want to clarify that at this stage of the discussions, nothing has been decided,” Wague told reporters in Bamako. “At no moment did we talk about a government with the military in majority.”

An African diplomat monitoring the talks said that ECOWAS is keen to push for a “short transition” with a focus on holding the elections and allowing a civilian, elected administration to handle the reforms afterwards.

However, several analysts warned against rushing to fresh elections without addressing the corruption and mismanagement that the soldiers and opposition leaders who led weeks of protests in the run up to the coup complained about.

“We did that in 2012 and here we are with another coup,” said Lori-Anne Theroux-Benoni, head of the Dakar office of the Institute for Security Studies, referring to the vote that brought Keita to power in 2013 after his predecessor was also ousted.

“We should be innovative and use the time of the transition to make the process of the reform irreversible,” she said. “This might take longer than what some international actors want.” (With reporting by David Lewis in London, Editing by Bate Felix, William Maclean)

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