The clock is ticking for Mali to announce a unity government that mediators hope will be able to wrest back the north, occupied by al-Qaeda-linked extremists.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc gave Mali's interim authorities until Tuesday to form the unity government or face sanctions, however the country is likely to benefit from an extension.
Key mediator Djibrill Bassole, foreign minister of Burkina Faso, said on Monday that interim President Dioncounda Traore was likely to be granted a "supplementary extension" after his return from Paris.
Traore spent two months in France after being attacked by opponents to his appointment, and the bloc had lost patience with Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra's government's inability to tackle the extremist occupation.
"The essential has been done, the president has returned, he has addressed the nation on the necessity to put in place transition bodies, including a government of national union," Bassole said.
The hardline Islamists who occupied the vast desert north four months ago have tightened control over the area, on Sunday dragging an unmarried couple to the centre of the town of Aguelhok for a public stoning.
It was the first reported execution according to strict sharia law since the occupation.
Mali's government on Tuesday expressed horror at the "dark-age practice".
"The government learned with indignation and astonishment of the stoning to death of a couple in Aguelhok by the extremists occupying northern Mali," read a statement from the communication ministry.
The statement said government "reiterates its determination to continue to do everything to rapidly free the occupied zones in the north of Mali".
The hardline Islamists on Sunday placed an unmarried couple in holes in the ground and stoned them to death in front of about 200 people.
The small town of Aguelhok is controlled by the Islamist group Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) allied with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) which is also present in the Kidal region.
The extremists occupied the main cities of Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao in late March in the chaos following a coup in Bamako.
In Timbuktu Ansar Dine has imposed sharia and destroyed ancient World Heritage sites seen as idolatrous.
Once one of the region's stable democracies, Mali has crumbled into despair in half a year and the interim government which took over from the junta has been powerless in the face of the jihadist occupation.
ECOWAS wants to send a 3000-strong military force to Mali but is waiting for United Nations approval and a formal request from a more inclusive government.