North Mali Islamists to meet top crisis mediator

Mediators, led by Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore, are trying to get Ansar Dine to break ties with its jihadist allies – al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao), long seen as an Aqim splinter group.

The groups took over a large swathe of northern Mali in the wake of a March coup attempt in the country's capital Bamako.

Burkinabe mediators on Monday pursued their talks with Ansar Dine for two hours, ahead of the meeting between the group's delegates and Compaore, the lead mediator in Mali's ongoing crisis.

The Islamists will now have to open a dialogue with the Malian government and continue consultations with the secular Tuareg group called the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and communities in northern Mali to create an "inclusive process", Bassole added.

Foreign troops
Experts finalising details for a military intervention said on Monday that non-African troops could play a role in ousting the Islamic radicals from northern Mali, if African leaders agree to such a plan.

The official who spoke on condition of anonymity did not elaborate on where the troops would come from.

He said delegates from Algeria had agreed not to give up the struggle against the armed Islamists, who are backed by Aqim.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the north African heavyweight last week to lobby for support in ousting the extremists, who Western powers fear may turn the vast desert zone into a haven for terrorists.

The Bamako conference was attended by experts from Ecowas, the European Union, the African Union, the United Nations and Algeria, who are helping Mali draw up a plan to be presented to the UN on November 26.

West African leaders will meet in Abuja, Nigeria, on an as yet undecided date to approve the plan. – Sapa-AFP

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