Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has described Friday's declaration of independence for the so-called State of Azawad by the Tuareg rebels in northern Mali as ''null and void, and of no effect''.
Saying Mali is ''one and indivisible entity'', the 15-member regional bloc said it would take all necessary measures, including the use of force, to ensure the territorial integrity of the country.
''ECOWAS wishes to reaffirm its commitment to the unity and territorial integrity of Mali. In this regard, it wishes to put all on guard against any temptation to proclaim any part of Mali as a sovereign state, as it will never recognize any such state,'' the organization said in a statement signed by Commission President Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, and made available to PANA in Lagos on Friday evening.
Earlier in the day, the Tuareg rebels who seized the northern part of Mali had proclaimed independence for the ''State of Azawad'' and called for immediate recognition from the international community.
The rebels, under the aegis of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), had, in a declaration posted on their official website (www.mnlamov.net), assured of the firm commitment of the MNLA to creating conditions for lasting peace, and to initiate the institutional foundations of the state based on a democratic constitution for independent Azawad.
The declaration of independence came as Defence Chiefs from the regional bloc ECOWAS meet in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, to discuss the political situation in Mali, including the possible deployment of a regional military force in the country.
ECOWAS and the African Union (AU) have also suspended Mali and are leading international efforts to isolate the junta and force it to hand power back to constitutionally elected authorities.
The AU and Mali's colonial master France have led the international condemnation of Friday's independence declaration.
-0- PANA SEG 6April2012