Capt. Amadou Sanogo, the leader of the ongoing military coup in Mali, announced Friday he has no intention of retaining his hold on power.
Sanogo claims he will hold presidential elections once he ensures the military is equipped to combat Tuareg anti-government forces in Mali's restive north.
We are not here to confiscate any power but we are here to have an army and security forces available to assume the nation security, Sanogo told the BBC.
So once this has been fixed, I'll be able to say 'Ok, go for an election' in a short period of time. I promise.
Sanogo also told reporters that democratically-elected President Amadou Toumani Toure and members of the government are safe and have not been harmed.
These people are safe and sound. We will not touch a hair on their heads. I will hand them over to the courts so that the Malian people know the truth, he said.
The exact location of Toumani Toure remains unknown. However government officials assure that he is not being held by coup leaders and is surrounded by his elite presidential guard. Some reports say he is in a military barracks in Bamako, the capital, but this has not been confirmed.
The Wednesday coup, which now calls itself the Committee for the Re-establishment of Democracy and Restoration of the State, broke out after a mutiny during the defense minister's tour of an army barracks nine miles outside of Bamako. Soldiers then attacked and looted the presidential palace late Wednesday night.
Soldiers were long dissatisfied with the government's approach to the Tuareg rebellion, and tensions were at their peak before the coup. Scores of soldiers, mostly from the south, have died attempting to prevent Tuareg forces from gaining more territory.
The Tuareg forces, calling themselves the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, have proven to be a strong match to Mali's relatively weak army of 7,000. They have enjoyed considerable success since their rebellion erupted in January, and continue to gain ground.
The northern cities of Kidal, Timbuktu, and Gao are within the Tuareg forces' reach, Agence France Presse reported Friday.
However, the coup does not enjoy the support of high-ranking members of the army, and is made up of mostly rank-and-file soldiers.
Many in the international community have condemned the coup, and are calling for the immediate return of Toumani Toure and the restoration of democracy.
The African Union suspended Mali's membership following the coup and held an emergency meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Friday to discuss the events. The A.U. is sending a mission to Bamako in order to assess the situation there.
The United Nations Security Council also condemned the junta. Members strongly condemn the forcible seizure of power from the democratically elected government of Mali by some elements of the Malian armed forces, a statement issued Thursday read.
The U.S. Department of State also issued a statement Thursday coming out against the coup. It called for calm and restoration of the civilian government under constitutional rule without delay.
Mali is a leading democracy in West Africa and its institutions must be respected, it added.
In addition, France discontinued aid to the former colony in protest, and the Economic Community of West African States is also calling for a return to order in Mali.