WASHINGTON, May 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. government has deep concerns about the political situation in Mali and calls for the return to civilian rule, a U.S. State Department official said.
Rebel Capt. Amadou Sanogo led the military seizure of the country in March, saying the military was frustrated that the country's leaders were unable to control rebels in northern Mali. Rebels have since claimed autonomy for the region.
Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said, in a statement, that Washington was "deeply concerned" by the political situation in Mali.
She said junta leaders should stand aside and let interim civilian authorities make plans for a presidential election as soon as possible.
"A strong, stable democratic government in Mali is essential in order for the country to deal successfully with its multiple economic, social, and security challenges," she said.
Coup leaders in Mali handed power to interim President Dioncounda Traore and Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra. Both leaders have pledged to organize elections and to end the rebellion in the north of the country.
Nuland said the U.S. government would keep sanctions against Sanogo, his supporters and the Malian government in place until full democracy is returned.