Mali not negotiating Al-Qaeda hostages release: president

4th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Mali is not involved in negotiations to free hostages seized by an Al-Qaeda-linked group in Niger, Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure said in a newspaper interview.

"For the moment, Mali is not involved in negotiations to release the hostages. We have not received a mediation request and we have not named a mediator," he said in an interview with the Tuesday edition of Le Figaro.

The seven hostages -- five French nationals, a Togolese and a Madagascan -- were seized in a Niger uranium-mining town on the night of September 15 to September 16.

They are believed by intelligence agents in countries concerned to be held in a northern Mali desert zone.

Former Touareg rebels leader in Mali Iyad Ag Ghaly, who has been involved in the release of hostages in recent years, said on Sunday that he was not playing the role of mediator in the case of the seven people held by the group.

Asked if he would allow French military action on Malian soil, Toure was evasive and said that Paris had so far made no requests even though the possibility of a strike had been raised.

"It's something that we are talking about among our chiefs of staff."

"We do not have French forces stationed in Mali. We think that France is the only one that can take the liberty of mobilising a force or not doing so," he said.

He called for greater regional cooperation, urging a "sacred union against terrorism" while also acknowledging the "limits to any security operation".

"The terrorists are in the desert because we are not there."

© 2010 AFP

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