Bamako - Former Mali prime minister Cheick Modibo Diarra is being stopped from leaving the country by the head of the 22 March coup that plunged the country into a political crisis, a relative said on Sunday.
A spokesperson for coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo denied the claim, saying he had "nothing to do with a possible measure targeting the former prime minister".
According to his family, Diarra, who has lung problems and a visible lump on his collarbone, had planned to leave for Paris in early December.
"Cheick Modibo Diarra is ill but cannot leave Mali for treatment because Captain Amadou Sanogo has blocked his departure," said family member Mohamed Diarra.
Prior to his departure in December, however, Sanogo ordered soldiers to arrest Diarra at his home and hours later interim leader Dioncounda Traore appointed Diango Cissoko as his replacement.
"We do not know if it's a tumour. Besides that, there's the lung problem. But for now, Captain Sanogo forbade him to leave Mali," said one friend who visited him on Friday.
Armed Islamist groups, some with al-Qaeda links, seized northern Mali in the wake of the March coup in Bamako, and have since imposed a brutal form of Islamic sharia law.
The UN Security Council on 20 December approved the deployment of an international force in Mali, but in stages and without a precise timetable. It also insisted on the need for dialogue with the armed groups in the north which reject terrorism and the partition of the country.