Mali mediator vows talks with rebels

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Ouagadougou - Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, the lead mediator in Mali's ongoing crisis, said on Sunday that he would form a “dialogue framework” for inclusive talks between Bamako and armed groups from the country's north.

The framework would “determine the agenda for inclusive talks leading to the establishment of a final comprehensive agreement for peace, stability and development”, said Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister Djibrill Bassole.

Bassole spoke to reporters after Compaore met with two representatives from a Tuareg separatist group, the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA).

The MNLA was formerly an ally of Islamist groups that took control in the north, but the Islamists turned on the secular separatist group and kicked its members out of cities under their control.

The dialogue framework will also take into account the wishes of regional heads, Bassole added, referring to officials from the West African bloc Ecowas that is readying troops to send into Mali.

Bamako has formally requested a United Nations mandate for the international military force, which would help Mali reclaim its massive north, currently controlled by hardline Islamists who have imposed sharia law and introduced harsh punishments including floggings and public executions.

Bassole urged rebel groups to engage in the talks.

In recent months, Compaore has also spoken with representatives from Ansar Dine, one of the Islamist groups allied to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Mali lost control of its desert north following a March 22 coup by disgruntled troops in the capital Bamako. The ensuing chaos led to a military collapse in the north, which was swiftly captured by the Islamists and Tuaregs. - Sapa-AFP


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