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Nigeria to deploy troops to Guinea Bissau within days

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Nigeria will deploy troops to Guinea Bissau by May 18, Defence Minister Bello Haliru Mohammed said Monday at the opening of a meeting of military officials from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS in Abuja.


AFP - Nigeria, west Africa's regional powerhouse, will deploy troops to Guinea-Bissau this week, Defence Minister Bello Haliru Mohammed said Monday at a meeting of regional defence chiefs.

Nigeria remains "committed" to its pledges to deploy troops to Guinea-Bissau and Mali in the wake of coups in both countries, he said, adding: "Our troops are ready."

"In Guinea-Bissau, we will deploy before the 18th of this month," he said, without stating how large a force would be sent to the former Portuguese colony whose government was overthrown on April 12.

"In Mali, we await the signals from (the regional grouping) ECOWAS. We have all our forces and equipment ready for airlift," said Mohammed, who earlier led the defence chiefs to a courtesy meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan.

Defence chiefs from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Togo, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Liberia and Gambia attended the one-day meeting while other ECOWAS member states sent representatives, officials said.

West African leaders decided at a summit in Abidjan on April 26 to deploy between 500 and 600 troops from at least four countries -- Nigeria, Togo, Ivory Coast and Senegal -- to Guinea-Bissau following the coup there.

The summit also decided to deploy a regional force to Mali where a coup overthrew President Amadou Toumani Toure on March 22.

The minister said that regional instability caused by internal conflicts in some member states was "a severe impediment to achieving the desired political and economic development in our sub-region."

Developments in Guinea-Bissau and Mali were cause for concern about the long-term survival of democracy in the region, Mohammed said.

The situation in Mali, especially a rebellion in the northern part of the country, "portends grave danger to our sub-region due to the assemblage of disparate armed groups whose reach extends far beyond the sub-region," he also said.

"If not decisively tackled, the development is capable of destabilising the entire region," he warned.

Amid the political chaos in Bamako, the country's vast north remains in the grip of rebel groups such as Tuareg separatists and Islamists who seized the area in the days following the coup.

Mali coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo agreed last month to a deal brokered by ECOWAS that led to a new transitional government.

Although he has formally quit power, he remains an influential political force and has refused ECOWAS demands for elections within 12 months.

Meanwhile, Guinea-Bissau coup leaders and west African mediators agreed last Friday that parliamentary speaker Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo will lead a transition government, ruling out the return of the ousted team.

In a separate statement, the ECOWAS Commission voiced deep concern over "worrying statements and actions" by Mali's former junta in recent days.

It warned them to reaffirm their commitment to the transitional accord or face the "immediate reinstatement of targeted sanctions" imposed on April 2 but lifted four days later.

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