Voice of America (Washington, DC)

Mali, Separatists Reach Cease-Fire Deal

The government of Mali and separatist Tuareg groups have reached a cease-fire agreement, following clashes this week that threatened to plunge the country back into war.

The deal was reached Friday after a meeting between the rebels and the African Union in northern Mali.

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita praised the work of his Mauritanian counterpart in securing the pact.Keita said President Mohamed Ould Abdel Azia, who is also the AU chairman, convinced the separatists there is "no alternative to peace and the negotiating table."

Keita was elected president last August on a pledge to unite Mali. He is seeking to rebuild the nation after a coup and a rebellion by Islamists.

The West African country spiraled into crisis after a military coup in the capital, Bamako, in March 2012. Several militant groups used the confusion of the coup to assert control in the country's north, where they planned to establish an Islamist state.

The violence prompted France to intervene in its former colony. A French-led military intervention pushed the militants from power, but fighters have continued to stage small-scale attacks in the north.

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