West African bloc ECOWAS on Wednesday pledged support for Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore, after mediators extended a deadline for the country to form a unity government.
"The ECOWAS commission welcomes the return of H.E. Dioncounda Traore to Mali on 27 July 2012 to resume his functions as interim president of the transition," a statement from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States said.
"The commission also takes positive note of the address to the nation of 29 July 2012, in which the interim president, among other commitments, expressed his resolve to oversee the establishment of a government of national unity ..."
It added that "while expressing its support for President Dioncounda Traore in his new endeavours, the ECOWAS commission wishes to reiterate its readiness to deploy its standby force in support of the government of Mali, as soon as the request in this direction is made."
West African leaders Tuesday extended a deadline for Mali's interim administration to form a unity government and wrest back its north from Al Qaeda-linked rebels.
Mediators from ECOWAS, whose commission is based in Abuja, granted Mali's interim rulers at least 10 more days to form a unity government, according to an African diplomat based in Bamako.
The extension came as condemnation poured in over the execution by stoning of an unmarried couple by hardline Islamists whose four-month occupation of the vast desert north has split the impoverished west African nation in two.
West African mediators had initially given Mali until Tuesday to form a borader unity government or face sanctions, as they ran out of patience with Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra's inability to deal with the crisis.
Diarra's interim government was set up in April to take over from the junta which seized power on March 22.
The astrophysicist was in charge for two months as Traore recovered in Paris from an attack inside his office by opponents to his appointment.
Traore returned to Bamako on Friday and on Sunday announced a raft of measures, including new transition bodies, to attempt to tackle the crisis, putting himself in charge of negotiations to form a unity government.© ANP/AFP