Cut ties with 'terrorists', Mali asked

2012-11-14 21:39
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. (File, AFP)

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. (File, AFP)

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Paris - African Union Commission head Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Wednesday urged armed groups in Mali, sliced in two since a coup, to sever ties with "terrorists".

Her appeal following talks in Paris with French President Francois Hollande came as Africa plans to send a 3 300-strong military force to retake control of northern Mali gathered pace with a west African regional bloc and the African Union endorsing military intervention.

Mali rapidly imploded after a coup in Bamako in March allowed Tuareg desert nomads, who had re-launched a decades-old rebellion for independence, to seize the main towns in the desert north with the help of Islamist allies.

The secular separatists were quickly sidelined by the Islamists, who implemented their version of strict sharia law, meting out punishments including stonings and destroying World Heritage shrines.

Preferring peace

"We'd like to convince the armed Malian groups to come to the negotiations and to de-link themselves with the terrorists and criminal groups," said Dlamini-Zuma.

"The preparations for the intervention are continuing, and we'll take it step by step," she said, stressing that she preferred a peaceful resolution.

"Obviously, if we can get peace in Mali and recovering the territorial integrity without going to war fine, but we are preparing," Dlamini-Zuma added.

The entire northern expanse of Mali - an area bigger than France - has been under rebel control since shortly after a 22 March army coup that led to a power vacuum across the desert north that was quickly filled by rebel forces.

Ansar Dine, one of the armed Islamist groups occupying northern Mali, said on Wednesday it does not want to impose sharia law across the entire country, but still wants to keep it in its stronghold of Kidal.

Africa's responsibility


The movement, the main Islamist group in Mali which has links to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim), currently occupies the sparsely populated Kidal region in the northeast of the country.

Ansar Dine and another Aqim-tied group, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, have imposed a brutal form of sharia Islamic law.

Hollande, who has said that France would not intervene on its own in the crisis, reiterated on Wednesday that "it is the responsibility of Africans to find solutions so that Mali regains its territorial integrity."

The UN is expected to pass a resolution approving the African military mission for Mali before the end of the year, but it is still not clear when the first troops could be deployed.

- SAPA
Read more on:    au  |  nkosazana dlamini-zuma  |  francois hollande  |  mali  |  france  |  west africa
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