Pan-Muslim body urges aid for Mali

Jeddah - The Organisation of Islamic Co-operation on Monday urged its member states to make generous contributions at a donors' conference on Mali to be held this week in Brussels.

OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu launched the appeal at the opening of a ministerial meeting in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah.

Romano Prodi, the UN special envoy for the Sahel, attended the meeting which was held to discuss logistical and financial assistance to Mali, an OIC member, ahead of the donors' conference on Wednesday.

The conference aims to raise funds to repair the damage caused by the war against Islamists in the west African country.

Foreign ministers attending Monday's meeting included those of Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Mali, Burkina Faso and Djibouti.

Ihsanoglu urged authorities in Bamako to implement "the transition roadmap leading to the planned July 2013 elections as a way of returning normalcy to the country".

He also called for an "all-inclusive dialogue and comprehensive national reconciliation".

The July polls are expected to hand Mali a legitimate government to lead it out of a crisis that has crippled the country since Tuareg rebels launched a rebellion in January 2012 for independence of the north.

Their insurgency overwhelmed Mali's troops and led to a coup in Bamako. This opened the way for hardline Islamists to chase out their former Tuareg allies and seize key northern cities.

Key role

France intervened in Mali in January and has since helped to push the Al-Qaeda-linked militants into desert and mountain hideouts, from where they are staging guerilla attacks.

Ihsanoglu said some armed rebel Tuareg groups were "in control of pockets of areas in" northern Mali.

"We therefore call on the Malian authorities to accelerate and widen the dialogue process by reviving the Ecowas (Economic Community of West African) mediation in order to find durable solutions to the conflict and to further strengthen the credibility of the outcome of the transition," he said.

In their final statement, the participants at the meeting urged the National Movement for the Liberation of Azwad (MNLA), which rejects the army presence in the northern town of Kidal "to disarm and join the peace process" and urged "an all inclusive dialogue process within the framework of a united Mali".

The Tuaregs' MNLA has refused to give up its weapons or take part in the July elections until negotiations have taken place with the Mali government.

Ihsanoglu said Monday that "the OIC stands ready to play a key role" in helping Mali "recover its full unity, integrity, security, stability and prosperity on a long term basis as a pillar of stability in the Sahel".

A UN force of 12 600 peacekeepers, to be responsible for stabilising the north, will be phased in gradually from July.

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