WASHINGTON, April 4 (Reuters) - The United States is suspending at least $13 million of its roughly $140 million in annual aid to Mali following last month’s coup in the West African nation, the State Department said on Wednesday.
The suspension affects U.S. assistance for Mali’s ministry of health, public school construction and the government’s efforts to boost agricultural production.
The United States, which sees Mali as an important partner in regional efforts to combat Islamic extremism, has warned that Mali’s political crisis was putting the territorial integrity of the country at risk.
U.S. law bars aid “to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.”
The United States announced the suspension of some aid to Mali a day after calling again on coup leaders to immediately return power to civilian authorities.
“The rest of the assistance will continue but anything that was directly going into the government programs and ministries has to be suspended,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.
Once one of the most stable democracies in West Africa, Mali has been in turmoil since the widely condemned March 22 coup that emboldened Tuareg rebels to seize half the country in their quest for a northern homeland.
They have been joined by Islamists bent on imposing sharia, Islamic law, across the whole of the moderate Muslim state, making it the latest security concern in a region battling al Qaeda agents and home-grown militant groups such as Nigeria’s Boko Haram.
Mali’s military rulers on Wednesday postponed a national convention to end a crisis sparked by the coup, which has led to international isolation and allowed the rebels to seize control of the northern half of the country. (Reporting by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Will Dunham)