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Mali Delays December Regional Election Until April 2018

FILE - A woman votes during local elections in Bamako, Mali, Nov. 20, 2016. Mali has delayed regional elections set for December 17, 2017, until April 2018.

Mali has delayed regional elections due next month until April 2018 in order to address dissatisfaction with the timing from powerful armed groups, the government said Monday.

Tieman Hubert Coulibaly, minister for territorial administration, met former rebel groups and pro-government factions who registered "concerns" over the vote's timing, a government statement said.

"In order to allow all those concerned to have time for the necessary discussion and to resolve the issues raised, it would appear necessary to delay the date of the elections," the statement said.

The vote had been slated for December 17.

The groups — the ex-rebels of the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) and pro-government fighters known as the Platform — agreed on a roadmap to peace with the central government two years ago, in an attempt to bring national unity after a 2012 separatist uprising in the north which was followed by a jihadist insurgency.

The peace accord has failed to stop the two sides clashing repeatedly in violation of a cease-fire, while Mali's security situation has deteriorated more broadly as the al-Qaida-linked jihadists have infiltrated certain communities.

Regardless, the groups' blessing is key to allowing elections to go forward in large parts of the country where the state is weak or even absent.

Mali's last elections were held in November 2016 in its municipalities, following several delays and excluding several northern areas where security could not be guaranteed.

The nation has lived under a near-constant state of emergency since an attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in the capital of Bamako in November 2015, which left 20 people dead.