UPDATE 2-Mali's president resigns, neighbours discuss north

Sun Apr 8, 2012 10:11pm GMT

* President officially quits, transition seen

* Mali's neighbours seek dialogue, say force on table (Writes through with details)

By Bate Felix and Laurent Prieur

BAMAKO/NOUAKCHOTT, April 8 (Reuters) - Mali's President Amadou Toumani Toure resigned on Sunday, paving the way for the soldiers who ousted him in a coup to stick by a deal to restore civilian rule and hand power to the president of the National Assembly.

Neighbouring states meeting to discuss turmoil in Mali's north, a major reason for the military's ousting of Toure, said they would seek dialogue with the northern rebels, a mix of Tuareg separatists and Islamists with links to al Qaeda, but warned they would consider military intervention if it failed.

The twin crises - a coup in the capital that led to a rebel seizure of vast tracts of the north - have threatened Mali's previous reputation for democracy and widened a security void that regional and Western nations fear will exacerbate regional instability, terrorism and smuggling.

Already bracing for a food crisis that is set to hit millions across the Sahel this year, over 200,000 civilians have fled their homes in northern Mali and many are short of food and healthcare as the rebel push has swept with it looting.

In a brief statement on his resignation, Toure said: "I am doing it without any pressure, I am doing it in good faith and most of all for the love that I have for this country."

A Reuters journalist at the villa where he met the mediators said Toure, who has been in hiding since his presidential palace was attacked by mutinous soldiers, was dressed in a white flowing boubou robe and matching hat, and looked relaxed after the meeting.   Continued...

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