W.Africa bloc hits Bissau with sanctions, threatens force

Mon Apr 30, 2012 2:45pm GMT

By Pap Saine

BANJUL (Reuters) - West African regional bloc ECOWAS slapped sanctions on Guinea-Bissau's military rulers on Monday and threatened to use force to dislodge them, after talks to restore constitutional order in the coup-stricken nation broke down.

Guinea-Bissau has been run by soldiers since an April 12 coup that derailed presidential elections and set back Western efforts to combat drug cartels using the country as a transit hub for cocaine bound for Europe.

"These are targeted sanctions against junta leaders and diplomatic, economic and financial sanctions against the country," an ECOWAS official said. "They went into effect at midnight, last night."

An ECOWAS communique seen by Reuters said heads of state from the regional grouping would meet on May 3 to consider "all other necessary measures, including the use of force" against the junta if it continues to cling to power.

Details of the sanctions were not immediately available, but are likely to add pressure on the junta, which has already delayed the payment of public wages.

The national labour union said on Monday that public workers would strike "until a legitimate government is formed".

The ECOWAS decision follows a meeting with a delegation from the junta in the capital of neighbouring Gambia on Sunday.

Representatives of the junta rejected an ECOWAS demand that it hand power to civilians through new elections within a year, and that interim President Raimundo Pereira, arrested in the coup, be reinstated during the transition.   Continued...

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