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ECOWAS 'Satisfied' by Meeting With New Burkina Leader

FILE - Burkina Faso's new self-proclaimed leader captain Ibrahim Traore attends a meeting in Ouagadougou on Oct. 2, 2022.

The mediator sent to Burkina Faso by West Africa's main political and economic bloc ECOWAS on Tuesday said he was satisfied by a meeting with the country's new military leader Ibrahim Traore.

Burkina Faso's new military government met with ECOWAS representatives to discuss plans for a democratic transition after the country's second coup this year, the interim presidency said.

The mediator, Mahamadou Issoufou, added that the bloc would continue accompanying Burkina Faso's transition to constitutional rule.

ECOWAS repeatedly urged the military officials that took control on Friday to respect a timetable agreed with their predecessors to return troubled Burkina Faso to constitutional rule by July 2024, a timeline the previous junta had accepted.

The country's current military leader Ibrahim Traore, who led the takeover that overthrew interim President Paul-Henri Damiba last week, will honor the ECOWAS deadline, he said in an interview with Radio France Internationale on Monday.

The meeting place on a backdrop of protests in the capital, Ouagadougou, that forced the ECOWAS delegation to stay at the airport rather than travel to a conference hall in the city center, a diplomatic source said.

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Dozens of demonstrators blocked access to the conference center on Tuesday morning to prevent the meeting from taking place, a Reuters reporter said. The crowds remained relatively small and peaceful.

But they followed violent anti-French protests over the weekend that flared after Traore said Damiba had taken refuge in a French military base, which France denied.

"It is civilians and the military who must decide. We do not want to take part in the (ECOWAS) game," said protester Adama Ouedraogo.

Some accused the bloc of siding with France, Burkina Faso's former colonizer, and doing little to help the country tackle a deadly Islamist insurgency that has displaced thousands and pushed towns in the north towards famine.

Frustrations over growing insecurity spurred both the first military takeover in January and the latest coup.

ECOWAS is struggling to facilitate a return to constitutional order in Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea and Mali, all of which have seen coups since 2020.