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Africa

Germany weighs in on Mali crisis

Berlin is actively promoting the search for a solution to the Mali conflict. Development Minister Dirk Niebel held talks in Bamako one day before the expiry of a deadline on a government of national unity.

Speaking in the Malian capital Bamako, German development minister Dirk Niebel said Berlin "wants a political solution to the Mali crisis without the inclusion of leading members of the coup or al-Qaeda terrorists."

The minister also said a government of national unity should "clarify its interim objectives for the restoration of constitutional order." He added this would be of key significance if the state was to reassert its authority in the north of Mali.

Dirk Niebel. Picture DW/Per Henriksen

German Development Minister Dirk Niebel praised West African mediators

Earlier Niebel had held talks in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, with President Blaise Compaore, after which he praised West African efforts at mediation in the crisis.

Burkinabe foreign minister Djibril Bassole has been visiting rebel held territory on behalf of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, which is seeking to resolve the crisis. He said the Islamist militants controlling the north of Mali were prepared to enter into talks.

Ban Ki-moon calls for sanctions

ECOWAS is poised to send an intervention force of 3,000 soldiers to Mali to restore law and order. The UN Security Council has endorsed the bloc's political efforts to end the unrest in the country but has stopped short of backing the use of force.

Following a military coup in the southern capital Bamako that toppled President Amadou Toumani Toure on March 22, Islamist militant groups now control about two thirds of Mali after hijacking a rebellion by Tuareg nationalists.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Picture Ki Price/AP/dapd

Ban Ki-moon has called for sanctions against extremist groups

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council on Wednesday the Islamists had illegally imposed Sharia law in the north of Mali. "There is reason to be concerned that the north is becoming a safe haven for terrorists and criminal elements," he warned. He also called for sanctions against "individuals or groups in Mali engaged in terrorist, religious extremist or criminal activities."

300,000 people have fled their homes in northern Mali. Major cities Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu are in Islamist hands. Germany suspended development aid to the Malian government in Bamako at the start of the crisis. Niebel said the only measures still in place were those which brought direct benefit to people on the ground, were unrelated to government activity, and could still be carried out amid poor security. The minister also said German development aid would only start up again once constitutional order had been restored. .

The Mali conflict has led to a worsening of the food crisis in the Sahel and Niebel has promised Burkina Faso a further nine million euros ($11 million) for rural development.

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