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A West African delegation visiting Mali to push for a speedy return to civilian rule following a coup said it was "very hopeful" on Saturday after meeting with the country's military junta and the president it ousted.
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The head of the delegation from the regional ECOWAS bloc, former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, said that detained Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was doing relatively well.
"We saw him, he's very fine," said Jonathan, who had earlier met for half an hour with the soldiers who seized power on Tuesday, including new strongman Colonel Assimi Goita.
Jonathan told AFP that negotiations were going well and he was "very hopeful".
Rebel soldiers seized Keita and other leaders after a mutiny on Tuesday, dealing another deep blow to a country already struggling with a brutal Islamist insurgency and widespread public discontent over its government.
Mali's neighbours have called for Keita to be reinstated, saying the purpose of the delegation's visit was to help "ensure the immediate return of constitutional order".
ECOWAS Commission chief Jean-Claude Kassi Brou said late Saturday that the talks took place in a "very open atmosphere and we felt a real desire to move forward".
"We hope to be able to finalise everything by Monday," he added.
Ismael Wague, spokesman for the junta which calls itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, also said the negotiations were going "very well".
A source close to the junta said the ECOWAS envoys had made a "good impression".
"We understand that heads of state, like Ivory Coast's Alassane Ouattara, are working for an easing of tensions, for a peaceful solution, even if they have firmly condemned our seizing power. We are open to discussion," the source told AFP.
The envoys also visited the Kati military base outside the capital Bamako where the coup began and which has become a new centre of power, the source said.
President Keita has been held at the base since the coup, along with prime minister Boubou Cisse and other high-ranking government figures.
Thousands of jubilant Malians took to the streets of Bamako on Friday to celebrate the toppling of Keita, who was reelected in 2018 but became the focus of widespread discontent.
The rally, originally organised as an anti-Keita protest by a loose coalition that has led months of mass rallies against him, was recast to "celebrate the victory of the Malian people".
"I am overjoyed! We won," said Mariam Cisse, 38.
But it was a different story on Saturday, when several dozen people who tried to rally in Bamako were dispersed by police.
"We are here this morning to show that we do not agree with the coup. But people attacked us with stones, then the police took advantage of this aggression to disperse our supporters," said Abdoul Niang, an activist of a pro-Keita party.
There has been international pressure to restore order, the United States on Friday suspending military aid to Mali, with no further training or support of the country's armed forces.
The ECOWAS delegation will meet with the ambassadors in Mali of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the US — on Sunday moRead More – Source