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Mali leader issues warning to rebels

April 13, 2012 at 11:20 AM

BAMAKO, Mali, April 13 (UPI) -- Rebels in northern Mali are called on to end their abuses or face military consequences, the country's interim president said.

Tuareg rebels, who had fought alongside pro-government forces during last year's civil war in Libya, claimed autonomy for northern Mali following a military coup. The rebel movement is said to be divided between separatist and al-Qaida factions.

Dioncounda Traore was sworn in as president Thursday, calling himself a leader that "loves peace," al-Jazeera reports.

Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, welcomed the inauguration of Traore as Mali's interim president.

"We support these positive steps forward in the political transition process and we urge all parties to facilitate the swift and complete restoration of civilian rule through free and fair elections," she said in a statement.

Traore was quoted by al-Jazeera as saying he was prepared for "total and relentless war" unless rebels backed down. He said he was ready, however, to talk with groups outside of al-Qaida.

"The United States and the international community remind all parties of their obligations under international law, which holds combatants and their commanders to account for acts of conflict-related sexual violence and acts of aggression," added Nuland.

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