West Africa's main regional bloc has confirmed that it will begin deploying troops to coup-ridden Guinea-Bissau on Friday while also warning Mali it could reinstate sanctions if democratic rule is derailed.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will send a 629-person mission to Guinea-Bissau "to relieve the Angolan military personnel (and) support the restoration of constitutional rule," after an April 12 coup, an ECOWAS statement said Thursday.
The soldiers who ousted Guinea-Bissau's government last month cited the Angolan force as a reason for their coup.
They claimed the Angolan troops were conspiring with the Bissau government against the army, which for years has had tense relations with civilian leaders in the chronically unstable west African state.
The ECOWAS statement, which followed a meeting of regional defence chiefs, said the troop deployment "is expected to begin on 18th May 2012, ahead of the 30th May 2012 withdrawal of Angolan Security Mission."
Nigeria had earlier this week said it planned to deploy troops to Guinea-Bissau by Friday.
ECOWAS is also preparing a 3,000-strong force for a potential deployment to Mali, still reeling from a March 22 coup and where Islamist and Tuareg rebels have seized control of the entire north.
The bloc is ready to send in troops, the statement said, but is waiting for "the formal request from the Malian authorities."
ECOWAS warned the ex-junta and transitional civilian leaders ruling Mali against attempts to derail the restoration of democratic rule.
"Any further interference with the (transitional process) will be met with the immediate reinstatement of the targeted sanctions that were imposed," the statement said.
ECOWAS hit coup leaders in Mali with tough penalties immediately after the March coup, but lifted the measures after the putschists handed power to civilian leaders last month.
The statement voiced further concern over the "worrying statements and actions emanating from (ex-junta) and their civilian associates in the last few days."
ECOWAS wants Mali's transitional president Diancounda Traore to continue leading the interim government for 12 months, but army Captain Amadou Sanogo, who led the coup and continues to exercise authority, has rejected that plan.
On Monday, Sanogo said he had called a convention where a new president could be chosen within weeks.