Sept. 25 (UPI) -- Former Mali defense minister Bah Ndaw was sworn in as interim president Friday, taking over after a coup overthrew leader Ibrahim Boubacar Keita last month.
He will serve for a maximum of 18 months, or until a new government is chosen in national elections. Mali has faced pressure to return to civilian rule after the Aug. 18 coup.
Neighboring nations in the Economic Community of West African States had suspended Mali from the group, closed their borders and cut off financial aid. ECOWAS envoy Goodluck Jonathan said the group could lift sanctions with Ndaw as president, but added that no decision has been made.
Nigerian President Mahamadou Issoufou had demanded Keita's return, saying the region "no longer accepts the forceful takeover of power."
French President Emmanuel Macron threatened this week to withdraw support forces in Mali if the nation doesn't form a civilian, rather than a military, government.
Militants have controlled large parts of Mali since fighting began against government forces in 2012, which spawned ethnic tensions.
Thousands of demonstrators had opposed Keita before his overthrow, as well as parliamentary elections, growing violence and corruption.
Yvan Guichaoua, a Sahel expert at the University of Kent's Brussels School of International Studies, said Ndaw could be the bridge builder and called him "a lesser-known figure with a reputation of decency."
"The ECOWAS wanted a civilian president and Ndaw meets this criterion, even though he is retired military," he said.