Washington - The United States said Monday it was suspending tens of millions of dollars in aid to Mali after a coup in the African nation last week, and called for the elected government to be restored.

“We have now taken the decision to suspend our assistance to the government of Mali pending a resolution of the situation on the ground,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

“We want to see the elected government restored as quickly as possible,” she added.

Nuland estimated that around $60 million to $70 million in military, economic and development assistance will be suspended, but expected to have more precise figures later.

Another $70 million is for food and other humanitarian aid but that will continue, she added.

The freeze is to “make the point” that this is “an unacceptable situation where democracy is being undermined in Africa and it's got to be restored,” Nuland said.

The comments come amid an international chorus of rebukes against the renegade soldiers who overthrew President Amadou Toumani Toure on March 22.

The UN Security Council has strongly condemned the power grab, and the European Commission, the World Bank and the African Development Bank last week all suspended development aid to Mali.

In Mali, more than 1 000 people rallied against the putschists, who announced a partial re-opening of the country's borders, mostly to allow the transport of basic goods into the country, in a bid to restore order in the west African nation.

Nuland said Washington was supporting efforts by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to defuse the crisis between the mutineers and the government, and reverse the military action which she refused to call a coup.

“We're still considering this a mutiny with uncertain results,” she said.

She said ECOWAS leaders due to meet on Tuesday in neighbouring Abidjan have “invited the mutineers to send a representative and they will impress upon them the view of the international community that they've got to get back to civilian government, they've got to get back to democracy here.”

In a bid to resolve the crisis, the charge d'affaires at the US embassy in Bamako has already spoke to the coup leader, Captain Amadou Sanogo, Nuland said.

She said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke Monday to Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, who is hosting the ECOWAS summit on Tuesday. - Sapa-AFP