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Mali's Ansar Dine Meets With ECOWAS Mediators

Burkina Faso President Blaire Compaore (R), the top mediator in Mali's crisis, and his delegation meet at the presidential palace in Ouagadougou with rebel leaders (R) from the Islamist Ansar Dine, one of the groups controlling the country's north, June 1
Members of Ansar Dine, an Islamist militant group in northern Mali, met Monday with Burkina Faso president and regional mediator Blaise Compaoré. The meeting comes about a week after Compaoré met with Tuareg separatist rebels who currently share control of northern Mali with Ansar Dine and other armed groups. Burkina’s foreign minister says the meetings are part of an effort to reach a political negotiated settlement for the region.

Burkina's foreign minister Djibril Bassolé told reporters after the meeting in the capital, Ouagadougou, that he welcomed Ansar Dine’s willingness to talk about solutions for northern Mali, where armed groups, including Islamic extremists, seized control in late March. But he said the group must cut ties with terrorists.

Bassolé said there are a number of terrorist groups present right now in northern Mali. He said Ansar Dine must clarify its position vis-à-vis these groups.

Bassolé said the following objectives of the regional bloc ECOWAS remain: Mali’s territorial integrity, preserving the liberty and human rights of the people, and creating a setting in which the region can manage the “humanitarian crisis” in Mali.

The members of Ansar Dine told reporters they accept mediation by Burkina Faso.

Ansar Dine, which is said to have ties with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, fought alongside the Tuareg separatist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, or MNLA, in seizing northern Mali at the end of March. But the two groups have different missions.

Ag Intalla Algabass, head of the Ansar Dine delegation at the Ouagadougou meeting, noted that a fundamental difference between his group and MNLA still stands. He said MNLA’s objective is separation, Ansar Dine is not concerned with a separate state. Algabass said Ansar Dine's objective is the application of Sharia and they maintain that.

Regional leaders are preparing troops for a possible military intervention into northern Mali. But regional officials say efforts to reach a negotiated political solution continue.

Burkina minister Bassolé said mediators would work with the Ansar Dine delegation in the coming days on an agenda that would be a basis for negotiations over northern Mali.