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US says Mali coup puts aid at risk, but moves carefully

March 23, 2012 22:59

WASHINGTON - The United States warned Mali's coup plotters on Friday that they were risking US economic aid but stopped short of joining the European Union and immediately suspending assistance to a key African partner in the fight against Islamic extremism.

President Barack Obama's administration has denounced this week's attempted coup by mutinous Mali soldiers, and called for the immediate return to civilian rule.

But Washington has moved cautiously, reflecting Mali's important role in US efforts to fight militant groups, including some associated with al-Qaida.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the rebels' actions could force the United States to suspend some of its aid to Mali, which runs to about $140 million a year.

"A little more than half of that is humanitarian aid of food, etc, so that would not be affected. But if the situation is not resolved democratically, the remaining portion of that aid could very seriously be affected," Nuland told a news briefing.

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