Mali PM arrest receives condemnation

UN Security Council warns of sanctions after arrest of Cheik Modibo Diarra.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon speaking at the Rio+20 Summit in Brazil. Picture: The United Nations.

NEW YORK - The U.N. Security Council condemned on Tuesday the arrest of Mali's prime minister by members of the army, which led to his resignation and complicates international efforts to push out Islamist extremists in the country's north.

Mali Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra was arrested and forced to resign on Tuesday by soldiers who staged a coup in March.

This underscored the military's continuing grip despite giving way to a civilian president and prime minister in April under international pressure.

"The members of the Security Council express their readiness to consider appropriate measures, including targeted sanctions, against those who prevent the restoration of the constitutional order and take actions that undermine stability in Mali," the 15-member council said in a statement.

The council has previously threatened sanctions in a bid to quell the crisis in Mali.

Last week the council's al Qaeda sanctions committee added the Movement for Unification and Jihad in West Africa - or MUJAO, which is active in northern Mali and linked to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb - to its blacklist.

Once a beacon of democracy in West Africa, Mali has been mired in crisis since the coup.

Ethnic Tuareg rebels and al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters took advantage of the chaos to seize the northern two-thirds of the arid nation.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was troubled by the circumstances leading to the resignation of Mali's prime minister, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

"The secretary-general calls again for a cessation of military interference in politics and urges the Malian leadership to resolve any issues through peaceful means," Nesirky said in a statement.

Ban recommended last month that the Security Council approve an African Union military operation to take back northern Mali.

The plan would lean on political, human rights, training and operational benchmarks being met.

"The members of the Security Council stress their commitment to authorizing as soon as possible the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali," the council said in Tuesday's statement.