BAMAKO  - Mali’s newly appointed prime minister has unveiled a unity government with representatives from all regions, including the Islamist-controlled north, but the leaders of the March coup that divided the country maintain a strong influence. After four days of talks, Prime Minister Diango Cissoko, named his new “representative” government late Saturday, as had been demanded by the international community irked over the forced departure of his predecessor Cheick Modibo Diarra on December 11. Diarra had quit under pressure from former putschists led by Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, who handed power to a transitional government in April but retained a strong say in Mali’s politics.

Military figures viewed Diarra as an “obstacle” to reaching consensus.  But Diarra was also a staunch advocate of French-backed plans to send in a West African intervention force to drive out extremists in the north who have imposed a brutal interpretation of Islamic sharia law. Such foreign intervention is fiercely opposed by Sanogo. In the new line-up three key ministers - Economy Minister Tienan Coulibaly, Defence Minister Colonel Yamoussa Camara and Foreign Minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly - will keep their jobs, while all of Mali’s political groups will be represented.  “The goal wasn’t to destabilise the government’s architecture. Most of the more important ministers won’t change jobs so as not to break up the group dynamic that was starting to form,” an aide close to interim president Dioncounda Traore told AFP.