Nouakchott — Malian Prime Minister Diango Cissoko wrapped up a two-day visit to Nouakchott on Sunday (January 6th) where he drummed up support for Mauritanian assistance to oust radical Islamist groups from his country.
After meeting with Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, the Malian premier said he had a "very clear understanding" of the situation.
"I asked him for an even stronger commitment on Mauritania's part to solve all of the problems in northern Mali, which is occupied by armed Islamist groups including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)," Cissoko told reporters.
Cissoko also pointed: "Mauritania has been sheltering more than 100,000 Malian refugees since the crisis in northern Mali began in mid-January 2012."
"These refugees feel at home, and the Mauritanian government is treating them with special care, it was important for me to come here and thank him for this care," he said.
Preparations for international military intervention are under way so that the armed groups in northern Mali can be dislodged.
On December 20th, the UN approved the deployment of an international force to Mali without specifying a timetable, though it said that this would be done in stages. It also urged dialogue with those who reject terrorism and the partitioning of Mali.
Cissoko did not answer questions from journalists in Nouakchott, instead focusing on the latest demands from Ansar al-Din, the he radical Islamist group that seized northern Mali last year, along with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other rebel groups.
In a document sent January 1st to Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore, Ansar al-Din demanded autonomy and the enforcement of Sharia law in the north within an officially Islamic Malian state.
The document was sent to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) lead mediator ahead of new talks between the Malian government, Ansar al-Din and the MNLA, scheduled for January 10th in Ouagadougou.
This will be their second meeting following an initial round of talks in Ouagadougou on December 4th.
The Malian prime minister's visit to Mauritania was a prelude to a summit of ECOWAS heads of state scheduled to take place in Bamako at the end of January.
By Bakari Gueye in Nouakchott for Magharebia - 07/01/13