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African leaders arrive in Burkina Faso for crisis talks

Issouf Sanogo, AFP | Burkina Faso's new military leader Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida

Three regional heads of state arrived in Burkina Faso on Wednesday to urge a speedy return to civilian rule, following days of unrest in which the military appointed Lieutenant-Colonel Isaac Zida interim leader of the West African country.

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Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, Senegal’s President Macky Sall and Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama arrived in Burkina Faso on Wednesday, with Zida meeting them at the airport.

There was little ceremony for the diplomatic troika, the AFP news agency reported. They were shuttled to a hotel near the presidential palace, where joint talks with the country’s main political actors are being held.

The high-level meetings are expected to result in a plan and timetable for restoring a unity government to power, with a civilian leader at its head.

The three presidents, who are representing the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, were expected to fly home on Wednesday evening.

Standing out as a beacon of stability in a tumultuous region, Burkina Faso was plunged into political crisis last week after angry mobs took to the streets to protest efforts by president Blaise Compaoré to extend his 27-year rule.

Compaoré stepped down Friday after demonstrators torched parliament. He then fled to neighbouring Ivory Coast with the help of France – the country’s former colonial master.

Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the United Nations’ special representative for West Africa and ECOWAS chief Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, a native of Burkina Faso, were also in the capital of Ouagadougou as part of the diplomatic front.

Canada suspends aid

Zida has shown little resistance to domestic and international pressure to hand back the reins of the country, reportedly saying that a transition could be achieved “within two weeks,” in line with demands made by the African Union.

The army has claimed that "power does not interest us" and pledged to install a unity government with a "broad consensus."

However, Zida has offered few details about how the transition would be accomplished or who could replace him, and Western donors are keeping a close watch on the quickly evolving situation.

Canada, which provided some 28 million euros in aid between 2012 and 2013, raised the pressure on Tuesday by suspending development assistance.

It said funding would be restored when a "legitimate and accountable civil authority has been re-established."

The United States said it was still "gathering facts" but could yet withdraw its $14 million annual aid package.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

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