Mali asks Mauritania for help amid crisis

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IOL pic apr16 mali coup fighters

Associated Press

File picture: Tuareg fighters from the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad patrol through a market in Timbuktu, Mali. At least 20 people were killed in a gunbattle in the northern Mali town of Gao on Wednesday between local Tuareg separatists and al Qaeda-linked Islamists

Nouakchott - Mali is calling on Mauritania to help resolve the crisis in the north of the country, which has fallen into the control of Tuareg rebels and Islamists, a Malian envoy said on Sunday.

“We came to inform the president of the republic that Mali is counting on Mauritania, just as we are also counting on other neighbouring countries, to resolve major problems in the north of Mali,” said Tibile Drame, after meeting Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

The envoy passed on to the Mauritanian president a message from Mali's interim head of state, Dioncounda Traore.

He hoped that talks would soon begin with the main Tuareg rebel group Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA), which has declared an independent state, drawing international condemnation.

“The MNLA should begin confirming their willingness to dialogue” and it is hoped that it would withdraw its independence declaration so as to find a rapid solution out of the crisis, added Drame.

The envoy added that there was a “basis for dialogue with Ansar Dine”, an Islamist group which is seeking to impose sharia law in Mali.

Ansar Dine, backed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM), had fought alongside the Tuaregs but has distanced itself from their separatist ambitions.

The envoy suggested however that Mali was not ready to talk to AQIM, saying that Bamako would not negotiate “with jihadist groups that are not Malian” and “which have nothing to do with us”.

Meanwhile in Ouagadougou, talks between the Malian military junta that briefly seized power last month and politicians trying to navigate a way out of the crisis resumed on Sunday, under Burkina Faso's mediation.

The junta seized power during a coup that toppled president Amadou Toumani Toure on March 22, denouncing the government's ineffective resistance to a Tuareg rebellion which was rekindled in January.

But the rebels took advantage of the disarray in Bamako by capturing an area roughly the size of France, including the ancient town of Timbuktu, in the north. - Sapa-AFP


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