Mali urges expanded peacekeeping mandate after clashes

Mali`s foreign affairs minister has asked the UN Security Council to expand the peacekeeping mandate and efforts to disarm Tuareg rebels after renewed violence in a key town.

AFP| Updated: May 21, 2014, 07:51 AM IST

United Nations: Mali`s foreign affairs minister has asked the UN Security Council to expand the peacekeeping mandate and efforts to disarm Tuareg rebels after renewed violence in a key town.

With the UN peacekeeping mission soon up for renewal, Abdoulaye Diop asked for "a much more robust mandate, under Chapter VII of the UN charter" which allows for the use of force.

This would enable the soldiers to "deal with threats on the ground and disarmament of all armed groups, in particular the MNLA," he said yesterday.

Tuareg separatist rebels clashed with Malian soldiers in the northern town of Kidal during a visit by Prime Minister Moussa Mara, whose government is backed by French soldiers who have helped dislodge rebels and armed Islamic extremists from northern towns.

The fighters of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) took 32 civil servants hostage but released them on Monday. The battle left eight Malian soldiers and 28 rebels dead.

Bamako will honour its commitments to hold "a sincere dialogue" aimed at a definitive peace agreement with the Tuareg rebels, Diop said.

But he accused the MNLA of colluding with terrorist groups, asking for Security Council condemnation.

Brandishing pictures of victims of the Kidal battle, Diop said flags of terrorist groups Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and of Ansar Dine (Defenders of Islam) were seen "flying from the vehicles of the attackers, next to those of the MNLA."

"The attack that occurred at Kidal can`t remain unpunished," Diop said, in a video conference from Mali, demanding "an international commission" investigate.

The UN`s special representative to Mali, Bert Koenders, who also participated in the video conference, had earlier said the UN "remains deeply committed to restoring Mali state authority in Kidal."

But he said "the priority for today is to revive the political dialogue," adding "we must call on all concerned to take concrete steps to contribute to the de-escalation of tensions."

Following the video conference, the Security Council began closed-door consultations.