Mali PM backs negotiations with rebels, Islamists
Malian Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra on Friday (June 22nd) supported negotiations with the armed groups controlling the northern half of his country, AFP reported.
"We have always said... that negotiation is our first choice," Diarra told reporters after meeting the chief mediator and Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore in Ouagadougou. "We are not afraid, nor ashamed of negotiating because we are dealing with fellow Malians," he said.
Last week, Compaore began talks with the two main rebel groups now controlling Mali's north, the Touareg separatist MNLA and the Islamist group Ansar al-Din, linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
"We said some time ago that we did not necessarily want war... but that if negotiation turns out not to be viable, we are ready for a war that would end the war," Diarra added.
Meanwhile, IRIN reported that the application of Sharia by Islamists in Northern Mali is driving thousands of students out of school. Ansar al-Din imposed dress codes, boys and girls were forced to learn separately, and subjects deemed to promote "infidelity" were removed from the curriculum.
According to Mali's education ministry estimates, some 5,000 students from north have fled to schools in Bamako and other southern towns.
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