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Mali peace envoy meets rebel leaders in Mauritania.

Summary: Gesture comes after ECOWAS bloc urged UN to strengthen peacekeeping force and consider sanctions against armed groups or individuals.

NOUAKCHOTT - Mali sent a peace envoy to neighbouring Mauritania on Wednesday for talks with the leaders of rebel groups waging an insurgency against the war-torn West African state's government in Bamako.The gesture comes after the regional ECOWAS bloc of countries urged the United Nations at the weekend to strengthen its peacekeeping force and consider imposing "targeted sanctions against the armed groups or individuals who impede the peace process" in Mali."I made contact with these organisations to first get know who they are, then to pass on the message of the president favouring dialogue and receive their suggestions," Modibo Keita said in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott.Keita, who was appointed by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in April to negotiate with the rebels, met members of the Arab Movement of Azawad (M) and the mainly-black Coordination of Patriotic Movements and Forces for Resistance.The UN Security Council urged Mali last week to implement fully a ceasefire between the government and armed rebel groups following fresh fighting in the northern desert town of Kidal.Armed groups including the M and the Tuareg separatist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad humiliated the army in a deadly offensive across the northern desert two weeks ago.Mali was plunged into chaos in January 2012, when Tuareg separatists launched a string of attacks in the north, which the army was ill-equipped to defend.A coup in Bamako led to chaos, and militants linked to Al-Qaeda overpowered the Tuareg to seize control of Mali's northern desert.A French-led military operation launched in January 2013 ousted the extremists, but sporadic attacks have continued and the Tuareg demand for autonomy for the desert territory they call Azawad has not been resolved."Obviously, we do not have the same position. We believe that the minimum that the people of Azawad can expect is of course internal autonomy," M general secretary Mohamed Ould Sidi Mohamed said.

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Publication:Al-Arab (London, United Kingdom)
Geographic Code:6MAUR
Date:Jun 4, 2014
Words:350
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