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Malian Government Focuses on Regaining Control of North


People originally from Mali's north protest against the Islamist takeover of northern Mali, in the capital Bamako, Mali, July 4, 2012.
People originally from Mali's north protest against the Islamist takeover of northern Mali, in the capital Bamako, Mali, July 4, 2012.
A Malian official says the country's new national unity government will focus on re-taking control of the north from radical Islamist groups.

Hamadoune Toure, Mali's minister for communication and government spokesman, tells VOA English-to-Africa that hardliners seeking to impose Sharia law in the north are not welcome in the new government.

He says the government will move forward with plans to seek outside help in liberating the region, which is controlled by Islamist groups Ansar Dine and MUJAO, which both have alleged links to al-Qaida.

"We have two priorities: re-establish territorial integrity of Mali in the north, the second priority is organizing elections," says Hamadoune Toure. "The government will start working as soon as possible and try to get support from ECOWAS, from the African Union and from the United Nations."

West African bloc ECOWAS is planning to send a 3,000-person force to northern Mali but has said it needs a formal request from the government.

The new government announced Monday has 31 ministerial posts and replaces a transitional government created in April following a military coup.

Toure says ministers in the new government must work for the country and not any political faction.

He says to join the government, ministers had to agree that Mali must remain one nation and that the country is not an Islamic state.
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