Mali's coup leader rejects Benin asylum offer

Aides of Mali's former junta chief Captain Amadou Sanogo rejected an offer of asylum made on Friday by the west African nation of Benin.

Benin's Foreign Minister Nassirou Arifari Bako said his country was extending its hand to Sanogo "in its search for peace and to assist in the democratisation process of that country".

"We categorically reject the offer of exile. Why should he go into exile? It's out of the question. He will remain in Mali," said Makan Konate, president of Mali's Group of Patriots (COPO), a coalition of organisations supporting the former junta.

Sanogo, a captain in the Malian army, had on March 22 last year overthrown the regime of president Amadou Toumani Toure, a move which led to the fall of the country's north to armed Islamists linked to Al-Qaeda and a Franco-African intervention to flush out the insurgents from the region since January.

Benin's offer came as Mali is preparing for its first presidential poll since that coup, which is expected to be held in July.

"They want to exile the captain because he knows too much. He has compromising dossiers and he's a fly in the ointment. He's not going anywhere," said Konate.