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Toppled president resigns his post

From one of the hiding places where he has been holed up since last month's coup, Mali's president penned a resignation letter and handed it to an emissary to deliver to the country's new leaders, while reporters looked on.

The move paves the way for Mali to name a new interim president, the next step in the nation's return to democratic rule.

President Amadou Toumani Toure was just months from finishing his last term, when soldiers on March 21 stormed the presidential palace, sending Mr Toure into hiding and cancelling a democratic tradition stretching back more than two decades.

Under intense international pressure, however, the officers that seized power last month signed an accord on Friday, agreeing to return the country to constitutional rule.

They did so after much of the capital, Bamako, only had 12 hours of electricity a day, a result of the severe financial sanctions imposed by the nation's neighbouring Mali, including the closure of the country's borders, which made it impossible for landlocked Mali to import fuel.

The accord signed by the leader of the March 21 coup called for the application of Article 36 of Mali's constitution. The article states that in the event the president is unable to serve out his term, the head of the national assembly becomes interim president for a transitional period, before new elections can be held.

For that article to be able to be applied properly, however, Mali's constitutional court needed to confirm that the president cannot carry out his term. Reporters from state television and French television station France 24 were allowed to film President Toure at a villa in the ACI 2000 neighbourhood of the capital where he has been hiding.

Looking thinner than before, the 63-year-old leader appeared in a flowing white robe and traditional bonnet. He said he was resigning of his own accord.

"I am doing this without any pressure, and I am doing this in good faith, and I am doing it especially out of love for my country. I have decided to hand in my resignation letter," Mr Toure said.

His resignation will allow the court to declare the vacancy of power, paving the way for the head of the national assembly, Dioncounda Traore, to become interim president, as called for in the constitution.

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