Northern Mali rebels declare independence

April 6, 2012 at 10:10 AM
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BAMAKO, Mali, April 6 (UPI) -- Rebels in northern Mali declared their independence Friday and asked for international recognition of their nation -- a move former colonizer France rejected.

Rebels of The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad said on their Web site said the country of Azawad would respect borders with other states, The New York Times reported.

Tuareg rebels declared a cease-fire Thursday, saying their goals were accomplished.

In an offensive that began March 30, Tuareg rebels and Islamic fighters seized the cities of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu.

The rebels have, in effect, split the West African nation in two, United Nations officials said.

France dismissed the rebels' declaration, with French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet saying a unilateral declaration of independence of the former French colony that wasn't recognized by other African countries was meaningless.

On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the rebellion could be solved only through diplomatic dialogue, not by military action.

Tuareg rebels overran much of northern Mali after soldiers toppled the government in the south. The rebels had been seeking autonomy for decades.

Pressure mounted against Malian soldiers who ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure March 22, the Times said.

The country's main political parties dismissed a call by junta leaders for a "national convention" to discuss the country's political and security problems.

Topics: Alain Juppe
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