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Top Mali mediator meets Islamist rebels

Burkina Faso's President held talks with rebel leaders from Mali's Islamist Ansar Dine, being the lead mediator appointed by the Economic Community of West African States to resolve the domestic crisis in the war-torn state

AFP , Monday 18 Jun 2012
Militiaman from the Ansar Dine Islamic group, who said they had come from Niger and Mauritania, ride on a vehicle at Kidal in northeastern Mali, June 16, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)
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Burkina Faso President Blaire Compaore, the top mediator in Mali's crisis, held talks Monday with rebel leaders from the Islamist Ansar Dine, one of the groups controlling the country's north.

Ansar Dine's chief Iyad Ag Ghaly was not among the six representatives who went into discussions at the presidential palace in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou, an AFP correspondent reported.

Burkina Faso's Foreign Minister Djibrill Bassole had already met the Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) delegation on Sunday.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) appointed Compaore as the lead mediator after renegade Malian soldiers toppled the regime in Bamako on March 22.

The coup, which the junta said was a reaction to the government's feeble response to a rebellion in the north, created a power vacuum and allowed Tuareg groups and Ansar Dine to conquer Mali's northern half in a matter of days.

Compaore himself took power in a 1987 coup that saw his predecessor and once brother-in-arms Thomas Sankara assassinated. He has since asserted himself as a key middleman in the region.

Compaore met on June 9 with a delegation from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the Tuareg separatist group that launched a major military offensive in Mali's north on January 17.

ECOWAS has a 3,300-strong military force on standby to help reclaim Mali's vast desert north, but the United Nations Security Council has twice this week refused to give its blessing to an armed intervention.

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