The European Union's executive arm decided Friday to temporarily suspend development operations in Mali after a military coup as EU foreign ministers called for the return of civilian rule.
In a statement in Brussels, the ministers "firmly condemned attempts to seize power by force in Mali."
They also "called for an immediate end of violence and the release of state officials, the protection of civilians, the restoration of civil, constitutional government and for the holding of democratic elections as planned."
President Amadou Toumani Toure fled his official residence on Thursday as the rebel soldiers seized key buildings in the capital in the country's first coup in 21 years.
Toure had just over a month left in power before a scheduled election on April 29.
"Following yesterday's coup d'etat in Mali, I decided to suspend temporarily European Commission's development operations in the country until the situation clarifies," said EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.
The EU stressed that direct support to the population would continue as well as humanitarian aid.
Mali is threatened with a food crisis due to drought.
The European Union's executive arm planned to allocate 583 million euros ($772 million) of development aid to Mali between 2008 and 2013.
The aid is aimed at strenghthening Mali's economic development and reduce poverty. The funds are also used for food security programmes, to improve access to drinking access and support civil society.
"We do hope that the constitution will be restored very quickly and that we will see a return to law and order," said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Asthon.
With the country facing a Tuareg-led insurrection in the north, the EU ministers renewed calls for an immediate ceasefire and for an inclusive dialogue.
The putschists -- who call themselves the National Committee for the Establishment of Democracy -- said they had acted because of the government's "inability" to put down a Tuareg-led insurrection in the north.
Source: AFP Global Edition