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Main Tuareg-led rebel coalition in Mali agrees to sign peace accord

A Tuareg-led alliance of Malian rebels has agreed to sign a peace deal with the government later this month. The agreement would aim to end decades of uprisings in the north of the country.

The head of the rebel alliance, known as the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), said on Friday that his group will sign a final UN-brokered peace agreement in just over two weeks' time to end fighting in the north of Mali.

"We will sign the peace accord on June 20," Bilal Ag Cherif said after talks in the Algerian capital, Algiers, to clarify security issues.

The Malian government and several other armed rebel groups signed the so-called "Algiers Accord" last month, but the CMA

rejected the deal

as falling short of its demands and called for amendments.

The final June peace agreement will take account of CMA demands, such as having the northern part of Mali, know by the Tuareg as "Azawad," recognized as a "geographic, political and juridical entity."

The government in Bamako said the CMA would sign a "security accord" in Algiers on Friday preliminary to the final deal.

Restive region

Tuaregs have waged four insurgencies in northern Mali since the west African nation attained independence from France in 1960, always calling for some form of self-rule.

A 2012 coup provided an opportunity for Tuareg separatists to take over towns and cities in the vast northern desert.

They were in their turn driven out by al-Qaeda-linked militants, who held sway in northern Mali for nearly 10 months before being ousted by a French-led military offensive.

A recent upsurge in attacks by pro-government militias and various groupings within the Tuareg-led rebellion has left many dead on both sides.

Western powers are anxious for a final peace accord to be struck, fearing that continued unrest in the region could allow the Islamist militants to return.

tj/kms (AFP, Reuters)

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