Mali PM to seek alliance to win back rebel north
Malian Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra's office said Friday that upcoming talks in Paris would seek to establish a unity government and a regional political alliance geared towards winning back the country’s north from occupying Islamist forces.
AFP - Mali's prime minister will propose a broad political alliance to win back the occupied north in upcoming Paris talks with the country's transitional president, a statement said Friday.
Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra will "propose providing an opening to key members of society to win back the north," the statement said, adding that the two leaders would discuss "the appropriate government structure."
Diarra arrived on Friday in Paris, where he is to hold talks with transitional President Dioncounda Traore who has been in the French capital since May 23 seeking medical treatment.
During the talks, Diarra would also propose a framework to seek assistance from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to reinforce Mali's armed forces.
ECOWAS leaders last weekend ordered the embattled interim authorities to form a unity government by July 31 that can provide a clear timeline to exit the crisis.
If not, ECOWAS would no longer recognise the government of Mali and the country would be suspended from sub-regional groups.
They also said Traore should urgently make an official request for an African force to be sent to Mali.
ECOWAS has said it has a standby force of about 3,000 troops available, but requires a formal request from Bamako for them to be sent, or a mandate from the United Nations which has not been approved.
A Burkinabe-led mediation effort is still underway with the various armed groups.
The interim government was put in place for 12 months and took over in April from a military junta which ousted the previous leaders on March 22.
Traore sought treatment in Paris after a mob angry at his appointment attacked him in his office.
The interim government has proved unable to deal with the takeover of the country's north by Al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters who took advantage of the chaos after the coup to seize key northern towns.
The jihadists have chased away the Tuareg separatist rebels who spearheaded the takeover, seeking independence, and have enforced strict Islamic law and destroyed ancient World Heritage sites they consider idolatrous.
On Friday residents of Goundam 90km (50 miles) from Timbuktu, protested after a man was whipped for adultery, and a woman carrying a baby "brutalised" for not wearing a veil, residents reported.
A source in Mali's justice ministry said Thursday that it was to refer the "atrocities" committed by the armed groups to the International Criminal Court as rights bodies warn of rapes, murder and enlistment of child soldiers.