Mali Rebels Meet With West African Mediator

Posted June 9th, 2012 at 2:25 pm (UTC-5)
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A rebel group seeking to create an independent secular state in northern Mali has met for the first time with the West African mediator for the Malian crisis.

Three leaders from the Tuareg-led National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, or MNLA, held talks Saturday with the mediator, Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore.

Mr. Compaore's foreign minister, Djibril Bassole, also participated in the talks in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou.

One of the Tuareg leaders, Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh, said the group accepts the mediation of the Economic Community of West African States . He also said independence does not necessarily mean territorial separation from Mali, but could involve economic and cultural independence.

He said the rebels reject any Islamist and terrorist groups in northern Mali.

Tuareg rebels tried to sign a deal last month with an Islamist group in Mali, al-Qaida-linked Ansar Dine, that called for the two sides to join forces for an independent state of Azawad. But the talks fell through. The rebels would not agree on the state operating under strict Islamic law, or Sharia.

Mali's transitional government has rejected the rebels' declaration of independence in the north.