Bamako: International mediators have failed to convince Mali`s President to sign a deal with northern Tuareg rebels that would pave the way for nationwide polls next month, with the talks now expected to take several more days.
"We hope to secure a deal within days," Pierre Buyoya, head of the pan-African force fighting Islamist militants in Mali (Misma), said yesterday.
Burkina Faso`s Foreign Minister Djibril Bassole earlier led the delegation to the Malian capital to ask President Dioncounda Traore "to lift the final obstacles" to the deal, as the United Nations said the human rights situation "remains precarious" in the north.
Rebels from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and a smaller group, who want autonomy for the northern Tuareg homeland they call Azawad, said on Tuesday they were prepared to sign a document put forward by regional mediator Burkina Faso.
The militants, who control the northeastern regional capital of Kidal, were initially reluctant to let government troops step in to secure the town for a planned July 28 ballot but agreed to the deal after amendments were made.
"We won`t obstruct the process," an official in the Tuareg delegation told AFP. "When the time comes, we`ll sign, no problem."
Bassole and UN, African Union, EU and French diplomats held six hours of talks with transitional leader Traore, but failed to overcome the remaining obstacles to a deal being signed.
Next month`s planned polls are seen as a key step in Mali`s recovery.
Misma chief Buyoya said the negotiations would shift to neighbouring Burkina Faso on Thursday, adding that there was never an expectation that the deal would be reached in a day.
"All parties have decided to make an effort to achieve peace," the former Burundian president said, seeking to end a crisis that saw Al Qaeda-linked groups take over the northern half of the country for nine months on the back of a March 2012 coup.
Former colonial power France, which sent in troops in January this year to pin back Islamist militants threatening to advance on the capital, has supported the interim administration`s planned election date.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday on France 2 television: "I saw the text yesterday, it is a good text, and I hope if possible it will be signed today."