News / Africa

Mali PM in Burkina Faso For Talks On Northern Mali

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Mali's interim Prime Minister Cheikh Modibo Diarra says his government favors dialogue and negotiation to resolve the conflict with rebels in the North, but is not ruling out force if negotiations fail.

Mr. Diarra, and his minister of communication, Hamadoun Toure, were in Burkina Faso Friday to meet with President Blaise Compaore who is serving as regional mediator.   Mr. Diarra said he has been visiting neighboring countries that are affected by the crisis to discuss options before the Malian government makes any decisions.

"It is our first option," said Diarra. "We are neither afraid, nor ashamed to negotiate because we are dealing with our fellow Malians. We do not want a war that would create orphans and widows and transform our countryside into a place of desolation.  If negotiation is not possible, we are ready for a war that will end this war and open the doors to peace."

The Economic Community Of West African States or ECOWAS, a 15-nation regional group, which includes Mali, is getting impatient with the unrest in Mali's North where Islamist militants seized control and are seeking to impose a strict form of Sharia law.

Tuareg rebels used the opportunity in April after a military coup in the capital Bamako led to unrest and kept the troops occupied in the south.  Regional leaders refused to allow the coup leaders to keep power and an interim government was formed.  But a group of soldiers entered the presidential palace last month and attacked the country's interim president.

Communication minister Hamadoun Toure said Friday that the interim President Diouncounda Traore remains in Paris where he is recovering from his injuries.  

"The president continues his convalescence in Paris," said Toure. "What is important is his morale.  He is strong and he wants to return to his country."

ECOWAS leaders say that the situation in northern Mali cannot be allow to continue because it is a threat to regional peace beyond Mali.   Mr. Compaore was appointed as chief mediator after renegade soldiers toppled the Malian government in Bamako on March 22.

The regional bloc has approved a 3,300-strong force to be deployed to Mali to take back control from the rebels and is seeking approval by the United Nations Security Council.

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