Mali leaders to conclude talks on 2-year transition govt

A forum in Mali debating how to restore civilian rule after last month's military coup entered its final day Saturday, to continuing uncertainty over whether it will deliver a roadmap.

On the table before some 500 delegates from political parties, unions and NGOs is a proposal for a two-year transition government, drafted by experts appointed by the ruling military junta.

The three-day talks mark the second round of discussions between the young officers who overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on August 18 and civilian representatives, many of whom had campaigned for Keita to resign.

According to the "transition charter" under discussion, the transition government would remain heavily influenced by the military.

The junta would appoint the president and install a military officer as head of a transitional legislative body.

Discussions over appointing a military officer as president provoked strong disagreements among the delegates on Saturday, an AFP journalist saw.

While the talks are set to conclude Saturday, it remains unclear whether the forum will bridge stark divisions over issues such as the duration of a transition government and the role of the army.

Just hours after the coup, the junta pledged to restore civilian government and stage elections within a "reasonable time" — later talking of a three-year transition.

The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States, for its part, is insisting that Mali's ruling army officers hand over power within 12 months.

It also remains unclear whether a final version of the transition charter text will be released, or whether its recommendations will even be followed.

Speaking on Friday, Yeah Samake from the Civic and Patriotic Action Party said he supported a 12-month transition government.

"The transitional institutions are accountable to no one, which is why the transition must be short term," he said.

Former Malian Prime Minister Moussa Mara said during a workshop on Friday that "we can go beyond 12 months," however.

"Let's put the responsibility for duration (of the transition government) on the decision-makers we are going to put in place," he said.

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