Paris - Fighting between Tuareg rebels and the army in the West African state of Mali have left at least 47 dead in two days, the government said.

Forty-five rebels and two soldiers died in the north of the country on Wednesday and on Thursday, French broadcaster RFI reported late Thursday, citing the military.

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad rebel movement disputed the number, saying one rebel and dozens of soldiers had died, RFI said.

Azawad refers to the Tuareg-populated areas of West Africa.

The Tuareg are demanding an autonomous area in the north of the country.

There have been reports that some of the rebels are former members of former Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi's security forces.- Sapa-dpa