LAGOS, Nigeria — The United States pressed Wednesday for a return to democratic rule in Mali and Guinea-Bissau, hit by recent military coups and no longer recipients of non-humanitarian aid from Washington.
"The military must step aside completely," US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson told reporters in a conference call of Mali.
"Those who have illegally seized power in Mali have no right to remain in power and no strength to address the serious security and humanitarian issues that Mali faces today."
Speaking of Guinea-Bissau, Carson said "every effort should be made to restore constitutional order and civilian rule."
He said the United States had acted to cut non-humanitarian assistance for both countries and was trying to identify those responsible to target them with travel and visa bans.
Carson said the United States had been working with the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States, which has been seeking to return the two member countries to democratic rule.
West African powerhouse Nigeria said Monday it will deploy troops to Guinea-Bissau this week to shore up security after last month's coup there.
Regional leaders decided at a summit on April 26 to deploy between 500 and 600 troops from at least four countries -- Nigeria, Togo, Ivory Coast and Senegal -- to Guinea-Bissau.
Nigeria said Monday it was awaiting further direction from ECOWAS before deploying troops to Mali, where the bloc has been trying to break a political impasse over who should lead a transitional government.
A rebellion by Tuareg nomads in Mali prompted overwhelmed soldiers to oust the president on March 22, but led to the rebels and their Islamist allies capturing the north of the country.
Carson said a clear plan was needed from ECOWAS before deploying to Mali and as a pre-requisite for US assistance to such a mission.
"We remain open to seeing precisely what it is that ECOWAS seeks to do militarily in that country," he said.
"We think that ECOWAS does have a role, but that role should be clearly defined. It should be carefully thought out and it should be staffed properly before it is undertaken."
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