France: Mali Fighting Over, Time for Talks

Mali interim prez refuses to talk to Islamic militants, only secular groups

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 31, 2013 9:41 AM CST

(Newser) – With French forces retaking the last city held by rebels, Paris is now looking for the Mali government and "legitimate representatives" from rebel groups to talk, reports al-Jazeera. "We have arrived at a moment of change," says France's defense minister, declaring that "the French intervention has succeeded." Now, says a spokesman for the French foreign ministry, "only a north-south dialogue will prepare the ground for the Malian state to return to the north of the country."

Standing in the way of that? Dioncounda Traore, Mali's interim president, insists that he'll only talk with secular groups, such as the Tuaregs of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad. He said he would not meet with the three al-Qaeda-linked groups involved in uprisings, including Ansar Dine and the Islamic Movement of Azawad; the leader of the latter, which was recently formed, says that he's in negotiations with France.

Map shows developments in Mali
Map shows developments in Mali   (Associated Press)
A French soldier lights up a cigarette outside a food store in Gao, northern Mali, Tuesday Jan. 29, 2013, days after Malian and French military forces closed in and retook the town from Islamist rebels.
A French soldier lights up a cigarette outside a food store in Gao, northern Mali, Tuesday Jan. 29, 2013, days after Malian and French military forces closed in and retook the town from Islamist rebels.   (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
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