The leader of Mali’s coup has appealed for foreign help to fight insurgents in the north of the country after the rebels entered a strategic town.
The call comes a day after Mali’s West African neighbours issued a 72-hour ultimatum to hand back power to civilians.
Seizing on confusion caused by last week’s coup, the rebels who had been besieging the town of Kidal have now taken it over.
The West African regional body Ecowas says Mali will face closed borders, diplomatic isolation and a freeze in funding unless the military begin giving up power by Monday.
Now the separatist offensive puts the coup leaders under pressure on two fronts.
Sanctions would in all likelihood hit the impoverished land-locked country hard, but the UN is hoping the wrong people won’t get hurt.
“I hope that the sanctions will not affect the population because the concern of the leadership in Ecowas is definitely not to affect the population but just impose sanctions that could make the junta change its position,” said the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit.
The coup has brought clashes in the capital, Bamako between its supporters and opponents.
Coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo has apologised after an Ecowas delegation was unable to land due to a pro-junta protest at the airport, and flew back to Ivory Coast.