Bamako: Representatives of leading
Western countries and regional states today met in Mali to
discuss how to step up the fight against Islamic militants
linked to al Qaeda.
Anti-terror experts of G8 members Britain, Canada,
France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States
joined counterparts from Burkina Faso, Mali, Morocco, Niger,
Nigeria and Senegal in Bamako.
Diplomatic sources said that Algeria, which was also
invited, boycotted the talks because it believed that
countries outside the region should not be involved in the
battle against al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
But Malian Foreign Minister Moctar Ouane said the
meeting was "a sign of esteem and confidence" in Mali, where
AQIM fighters are believed to be holding seven hostages seized
last month in neighbouring Niger.
A diplomat said the aim was to increase awareness to
step up efforts against AQIM, and matters discussed would
include controlling borders and the role of organisations such
as the African Union and the Economic Community of West
African States, also represented at the talks.
The meeting is scheduled to end tomorrow.
AQIM kidnapped five French nationals, a Madagascan and
a Togolese from an uranium mining town in Niger on September
16. It is believed to be holding them in a mountainous desert
region in northeastern Mali.