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Mali holds forum on crisis in north

Bamako -

Supporters and foes of the March 22 coup in Mali on Thursday gathered for a forum on the subsequent turmoil in the north that has cut the country in two.

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. Credit: Associated Press

“In spite of the institutional crisis, in spite of the partition of the country, we must not give in to defeatism, we must not give up,” the leader of the Party for a National Renaissance (Parena), Tiebile Drame, said in his introductory remarks.

The forum, organised by Parena, gathered members of political parties and civic associations, elected politicians and invited foreign guests, with the aim of finding solutions to the crisis in the north of the west African country.

The successful coup against Amadou Toumani Toure opened the way for Tuareg rebels and armed Islamist movements, including Ansar Dine (Defenders of Islam) and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI), to seize control of a desert area the size of France.

In his letter of invitation to the forum, Drame said that the coup had “sped up the partition of the country, of which two-thirds are now occupied by various rebel groups, both Malian and foreign, which are imposing their laws on our people.”

“It seems to us that those who approved of the coup d'etat, like those who resisted it in rejecting a fait accompli, should hold talks to define together the ways in which to recover the unity of the national territory,” he added.

The forum was taking place against the background of a total political impasse in Mali, where the coup leaders retain a strong influence in Bamako even after handing power back to civilians.

The soldiers who carried out the coup refuse to see interim president Dioncounda Traore, sworn in on April 12, stay in office more than 40 days, beyond May 22. - Sapa-AFP

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