West African bloc sanctions Guinea, condemns Mali for detaining Ivorian troops

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CONAKRY (Reuters) - West Africa's main political and economic bloc imposed more sanctions on Guinea's ruling junta on Thursday for failing to establish a new schedule for a transition to democracy, the bloc said in a press release.

In an extraordinary summit held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, leaders from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed to freeze junta members' financial assets and bar them from travelling to other countries in the region.

It was not made clear who would be affected by the new sanctions, with much of the junta's leadership having already been under strict financial and travel restrictions since taking power last year.

"These sanctions were taken with a view to facilitating the process of an early return to constitutional order in Guinea, a prerequisite for peace, stability and development," the bloc said in a statement following the summit.

The ECOWAS Development Bank said in a statement late on Thursday that it would also suspend financing to Guinean development projects as part of the new sanctions. The bank currently supports at least two energy projects in the country.

ECOWAS first sanctioned Guinea's military rulers and their families in the days following the September 2021 ouster of longtime president Alpha Conde.

Interim president Mamady Dumbouya proposed a three-year transition schedule in May, which ECOWAS then rejected in early July. They said the putschists would face additional sanctions if no new date were set by the beginning of August.

In the Thursday statement, the regional bloc gave Guinea until Oct. 22 to establish a "reasonable" timetable, or face additional sanctions.

West African leaders also used the summit as an opportunity to condemn the ongoing detention of 46 Ivorian soldiers in Mali, who have been held in the capital Bamako since July 10 on accusations of acting as mercenaries.

Ivory Coast, which has repeatedly called for their release, says the soldiers were deployed as part of a security and logistics support contract signed with the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali.

ECOWAS leaders condemned Malian authorities for using "blackmail" in their negotiations with Ivorian authorities and said the presidents of Ghana, Togo and Senegal will soon travel to Mali in order to negotiate for the troops' unconditional release.

(Reporting by Saliou Samb and Ange Aboa; Writing by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Hugh Lawson)