Mali mediator in talks with rebels in north: official
5/17/2012 8:30:01 PM -
OUAGADOUGOU (AFP) - West Africa's mediator for Mali has begun talks with the rebel groups who seized the north of the country after a coup in March, officials said on Thursday.
The mediator, Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, "has begun consultations with the different armed groups with a view to lay out an agenda to get out of the crisis in northern Mali," the Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibrill Bassole told a press conference.
The aim of the talks is to "reach as soon as possible a deal between the transitional government and the armed groups that will preserve the territorial integrity of Mali, security and human rights," he said.
"The consultations are proceeding with extreme caution because of the strong rivalries that pit the armed groups against each other," he said.
He said contacts had been established with the main Tuareg rebel group MNLA, the Islamist Ansar Dine group as well as the Mujao group that presents itself as a splinter group of the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI).
The groups took advantage of the power vacuum created by a coup by mid-level army officers in Mali on March 22 to capture the vast desert north of the country, but have very different goals, with the Tuaregs wanting independence and the Islamists pushing to impose Sharia law.
Compaore was appointed mediator in the Mali crisis by the west African bloc ECOWAS.