Tuareg rebels not bound by truce talks

Nouakchott - A Tuareg rebel leader said on Tuesday that his movement, which is carrying out an offensive in northern Mali, was not represented in ceasefire talks between Bamako and Tuareg fighters in Algiers.

"The negotiators present in Algiers don't represent us, the conclusions they will reach do not commit us to anything," said Abdel Kerim Ag Matafa, president of the revolutionary council of the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA).

He was speaking in an interview published by private Mauritanian news agency Al-Akhbar.

"All negotiations with Bamako must be based on the principal of self-determination for our people and must take place on neutral territory, in Burkina Faso, Mauritania or Switzerland for example, with the direct involvement of the United Nations," he added.

The MNLA launched an offensive on January 17 in northern Mali, the first Tuareg rebellion in three years, which has sent 20 000 people fleeing into neighbouring Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.

Malian Foreign Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga took part in talks in Algiers between February 2-4 with the May 23 Alliance of Tuareg rebels which is believed to be fighting alongside the MNLA.

Both parties called for a cease-fire and urged dialogue and co-operation, the Algerian Press Agency reported after the talks.

However the MNLA has said these calls do not concern its movement.

Several northern towns have been attacked and clashes have killed dozens on both sides.

Retaliatory mob attacks in Bamako mainly targeting property owned by Tuaregs - a nomadic tribe of Berber origin - and other light-skinned communities such as Arabs and Mauritanians have also been reported.

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