The heads of state of the West African economic bloc are holding a virtual extraordinary summit Friday to discuss Mali after negotiations with the junta that staged a coup last week failed to agree on a timeline for a civilian transitional government.
On Thursday, military leaders released former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to his home, where he remains under tight security. His release could be a signal that Mali's ruling junta are trying to meet some of the 15-nation ECOWAS bloc's demands.
The main demand from ECOWAS, however, is at a standstill. West Africa's leaders have demanded that the junta put in place an interim government, headed by a civilian or retired military officer, that would last no longer than one year before democratic elections are held to restore the country to civilian rule.
Mali's junta has proposed staying in power for three years until an election. That's more than double the time it took to hold a vote after a similar coup in 2012, and would allow the soldiers who overthrew a democratically elected president to remain in power longer.
ECOWAS has been leading negotiations with the junta that calls itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People since last week.
Friday's summit is also likely to focus on sanctions imposed by the bloc on Mali since the Aug. 18 coup. ECOWAS has shut borders, halted financial flows with Mali and threatened further sanctions.
The regional group is also considering mobilizing a standby military force to restore civilian rule, a proposal likely changed by the overwhelming show of support for the coup by Malians who took to the streets to support the junta.
African countries and others have expressed fear that Mali's upheaval could allow Islamic extremists that the military has been fighting with heavy international support for seven years to extend their reach.
The junta has released a degree signed Monday by junta leader Col. Assimi Goita that installs ``provisional authority and lays the foundations for a rule of law.'' It says the law is necessary given the dissolution of the National Assembly and the government.
It declares that the provisions of Mali's 1992 constitution ``apply as long as they are not contrary or incompatible with those of the present act.''