Mali's Tuareg rebels abandon Algeria-hosted talks

AP News
Posted: Jan 17, 2014 11:42 AM

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Tuareg rebels withdrew from negotiations with Mali's government scheduled to take place in Algeria this week over fears their political grievances wouldn't be addressed, a spokesman said Friday, highlighting continuing tension between the two sides.

Representatives of the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, or NMLA, left Algiers on Thursday after concluding the talks were intended to emphasize reconciliation without addressing the group's political grievances including their push for autonomy, Attaye Ag Mohamed said.

"We left when the requirements for a genuine discussion were not met," Mohamed said. "You cannot have reconciliation meetings before settling the political conflict."

He added that the NMLA took issue with the representatives of a separate group, the Arab Movement for the Azawad, saying they weren't actual rebels but rather members of the group who had already agreed to cooperate with the government based in the southern capital of Bamako.

Tuareg rebels took over northern Mali following a military coup in March 2012, though they were later overrun in most cities by al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists.

A French-led intervention last year scattered the Islamic extremists, but the NMLA retains a strong presence in the northern Mali city of Kidal.

An accord reached in Burkina Faso in June paved the way for presidential elections in Kidal the following month, though tension remains between the Tuaregs and the administration of new President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

The NMLA has continued to lobby for autonomy while authorities in Bamako favor a decentralization process that would bolster the government's presence throughout the country.