Mali rebels ready to talk

Aug. 8, 2012 at 1:23 PM

BAMAKO, Mali, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- A leader from a Malian militant group allied with al-Qaida told a visiting diplomat from Burkina Faso he was reflecting on his allegiances.

Forces allied with Gen. Amadou Sanogo overthrew the civilian government in Mali early this year. In the aftermath, rebel forces declared autonomy for northern Mali.

Interim President Dioncounda Traore, in a national address last week, stressed the importance of taking unified action regarding security concerns in the country.

Djibril Bassole, the foreign minister from neighboring Burkina Faso, met with Iyad ag Ghali, leader of al-Qaida affiliated Ansar Dine movement in northern Mali to find a solution to the crisis.

"He wants to proceed to consultations immediately after the end of Ramadan," Bassole told The New York Times. "He said he was ready to negotiate."

The foreign minister added, however, that negotiating with an arm of al-Qaida "is not possible," to which Ghali responded that he would "reflect" and get back with negotiators.

The Economic Community of West African States has tried to negotiation a settlement to the crisis. The bloc, in a statement, welcomed Traore's efforts at unity but restated "its readiness to deploy its standby force in support of the government of Mali, as soon as the request in this direction is made."

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