Mali rebels split over sharia in new state

Tue May 29, 2012 3:33pm GMT

The regional bloc ECOWAS said on Tuesday it rejected the rebels' attempt to create an Islamic state in northern Mali.

"ECOWAS strongly condemns this opportunistic move, which will only worsen the plight of the populations already suffering atrocities and deprivation in the occupied Malian territory, and further threaten regional peace and security," it said.

French President Francois Hollande urged African leaders to appeal to the United Nations Security Council to tackle the worsening crisis in Mali.

"What we want is that these institutions (African Union, ECOWAS) go to the U.N. Security Council so that it finds a framework that allows stability to be restored in Mali and the wider Sahel," Hollande said after meeting Benin's president, Yayi Boni, who currently heads the African Union.

Asked whether France, the former colonial ruler, would be ready to help restore stability in Mali through military intervention, Hollande said Paris would abide by Security Council resolutions and would be ready to help if asked to.

He said he had consulted Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, who heads ECOWAS, on Tuesday morning and told him he wanted the regional institutions to take the issue to the Security Council "as soon as possible."

"We don't want to interfere but we are aware of our responsibilities," Hollande said, adding that six French nationals were still being held in the Sahel by al Qaeda's north African wing.

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