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Former colonel Ndaw named interim Mali president, junta leader VP

Former Mali defence minister and retired colonel Bah Ndaw was named interim president on Monday while the leader of the junta that seized power last month, Colonel Assimi Goita, was appointed vice president, Goita said in a statement.

Former defence minister to become president

Junta leader says he will be vice president

Regional leaders seek civilian rule

Adds details, background

BAMAKO, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Former Mali defence minister and retired colonel Bah Ndaw was named interim president on Monday while the leader of the junta that seized power last month, Colonel Assimi Goita, was appointed vice president, Goita said in a statement.

Mali's ruling junta has come under intense pressure from leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to return power to civilians following the Aug. 18 coup that overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

It was unclear whether the arrangement would satisfy ECOWAS, which last week threatened to step up economic sanctions and impose a total embargo on landlocked Mali if its conditions were not met. An ECOWAS spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

The leaders, and Mali's partners such as France and the United States, are nervous the coup will set a dangerous precedent, and undermine a fight against Islamist militants across the Sahel region.

Ndaw and Goita were appointed by a group of 17 electors chosen by the junta to oversee an 18-month transition that will culminate in fresh elections. They will be sworn in on Friday, Goita said in brief remarks on state television.

Regional leaders had demanded that the interim president be a civilian, while signalling they would accept a soldier as vice president so long as he is ineligible to replace the president.

Goita did not say whether the vice president would remain next-in-line to the presidency as stipulated in a transitional charter approved a multi-party talks earlier this month.

Ndaw served as defence minister under Keita and was an aide to Mali's former military ruler Moussa Traore.

Kaou N'Djim, a spokesman for influential Muslim cleric Mahmoud Dicko, who led mass protests against Keita before the coup, praised Ndaw's nomination.

"Ba is an upright official. He has never been implicated in matters of financial corruption," N'Djim told Reuters.

(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Alessandra Prentice, Bate Felix and Philippa Fletcher)

((Aaron.Ross@thomsonreuters.com; +221 77 569 1702;))

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