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MALI COUP: ECOWAS calls for restoration of Keita

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West African leaders under the regional bloc ECOWAS have said they would dispatch envoys to Mali to help secure "the return of constitutional order".  In a video conference on Thursday, they called for the ousted Malian president to be restored to office.

"We have decided to immediately send a high-level delegation in order to ensure the immediate return of constitutional order," the regional bloc ECOWAS said at the end of a video summit.

"We call for the restoration of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita as president," it said in a closing statement read by the president of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, who chairs the group.

"Mali is in a critical situation, with serious risks that a collapse of the state and institutions leads to reversals in the fight against terrorism and organised crime, with every consequence for all our community.

"This country needs our solidarity even more."

Issoufou told the coup leaders they bore "responsibility for the safety and security" of Keita and other detained officials.

Rebel soldiers on Tuesday launched a mutiny in a barracks on the outskirts of Bamako, detained Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse and declared they had taken power.

Calling itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, under the leadership of a colonel named Assimi Goita, the junta has vowed to stage elections within a "reasonable time" and respect "all past agreements," including international anti-jihadist missions.

Issoufou said that through the talks, ECOWAS would "convey to the leaders of the military junta that the times of taking power by force are over in this region".

He also called for the "immediate implementation" of the threat of sanctions against them.

The coup is Mali's second in eight years.

The last one, in 2012, was followed by an insurrection in the north of the country which then developed into a jihadist insurgency that has spread into neighbour Niger and Burkina Faso.

Keita's overthrow came after months of protests in which ECOWAS -- the Economic Community of West African States -- had tried unsuccessfully to play a mediating role.

The bloc proposed setting up a unity government that would include representatives of the protest movement, but it stood by the 75-year-old Keita. The package was rejected by the opposition.

ECOWAS actions so far have included threats of sanctions

ECOWAS comprises 15 members, including Mali, but within hours of Keita's overthrow, the group announced it was suspending the country from its internal decision-making bodies.

It also said its members would close land and air borders to Mali and pledged to demand sanctions against "all the putschists and their partners and collaborators".