A West African mediator has told rebels in northern Mali they must distance themselves from "terrorists" before any peace talks can start.
Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibril Bassole, representing the West African bloc ECOWAS, visited northern Mali on Tuesday and met with leaders of the Islamist militant group Ansar Dine in the town of Kidal.
Speaking to reporters in Burkina Faso's capital after his trip, Bassole said he told the rebels of ECOWAS's demand.
He said he also visited the town of Gao, which is controlled by another militant group, MUJAO. He said he spoke with local leaders in the town but not with MUJAO.
MUJAO is an offshoot of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, while Ansar Dine is also believed to have connections with the al-Qaida group.
ECOWAS is spearheading regional efforts to resolve the Mali political crisis, sparked when soldiers overthrew the government in March, allowing rebels to take over the country's north.
Bassole said the West African bloc is trying to promote dialogue.
However, ECOWAS has also offered to deploy a force of more than 3,000 soldiers to help retake the north. The bloc says it is waiting for a formal request from Mali's interim government.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.