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Mali President says he will not talk with insurgents

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 1st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Mali's interim president, Dioncounda Traore says he refuses to speak with Islamists who seized control of the north before French and Malian forces drove them out. However, Traore told radio journalists he would consider meeting with the Tuareg rebel group MNLA if it drops its claim to Malian territory.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The MNLA had seized part of northern Mali last year to later join forces with Islamic militants when the Malian government collapsed. The Tuaregs would later part ways with the militants when they imposed conservative Islamic law in the north. In a reversal of policy, the MNLA now says it backs the French military operation in Mali.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had earlier declared the intervention in Mali a success, but also said that Mali's situation is not yet secure. The minister said in an interview on French radio that the Malians must establish "a reconciliation process" to ensure a stable future.

Army Spokesman Captain Modibo Traore says that four soldiers were killed when their vehicle ran over a land mine near Gao. The blast wounded another five people.

French-led forces were reported in control of three key towns in northern Mali Wednesday, after al-Qaeda-linked militants fled their last stronghold and escaped into a vast desert region with their weapons.

Insurgents mounted no resistance as French troops arrived at the Kidal airport shortly after they captured Gao and Timbuktu.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said his country's forces will be leaving Mali sooner than expected. An African intervention force backed by the United Nations is preparing to deploy at least 6,000 troops to the region.

African troops will be responsible for holding the towns and tracking down Islamist fighters. French authorities say the insurgents melted into villages in the Adrar des Ifoghas Mountains and surrounding desert areas.

First launching a rebellion in the north last January seeking autonomy, the MNLA later joined the Islamists to seize control of the region following a coup in Bamako that toppled the government. The Islamists later pushed the Tuaregs aside and moved to impose strict Islamic law.

French forces launched an offensive against the Islamists this month as the groups made a push in the direction of the capital, Bamako.

An African-led force is being assembled to help secure Mali once the French forces leave.

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