Mali govt conducts first direct talks with rebel factions

Last Updated: Wed, Dec 05, 2012 07:00 hrs

Mali government has reportedly held the first direct talks with rebel groups that seized the north of the country after a coup earlier this year.

Tuesday's talks in Ouagadougou resulted in the much-weakened separatist Tuareg rebels confirming they were renouncing hopes for an independent state in the country's north.

The Burkina Faso meeting paves the way for more talks with Tuareg and Islamist rebels, as both have pledged to respect national unity and reject terrorism, the BBC reports.

According to the report, the West African regional group Ecowas had said it was ready to deploy 3,300 troops to reclaim rebel-held territory.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon backed a one-year deployment last week, the report said.

Meanwhile the Islamist Ansar Dine group pledged to reject all forms of extremism, although the group has yet to prove this on the ground by cutting links with Al-Qaeda-linked groups, the report said.

Islamists and Tuareg rebels captured large swathes of northern Mali after a coup in Bamako in March.

Their alliance then collapsed, with the Islamists taking the region's main urban centers, the report said.

The Islamists have destroyed ancient shrines in Timbuktu and have imposed a strict version of Islamic law, sparking international outrage, it added. (ANI)

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