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Government, Rebels Agree New Security Deal

Mali’s government and Tuareg-led rebels signed deals agreeing a local ceasefire and more political guarantees as a step toward a U.N.-brokered accord to end decades of uprisings in the north, the United Nations envoy has said.

Mali’s government accepted a broad U.N.-brokered agreement in March, but the rebel coalition delayed a final signing, saying it fell short of their demands, as fighting continued in the region that separatists call Azawad. U.N. envoy Mongi Hamdi said one arrangement called for a ceasefire in the northern town of Menaka and the withdrawal of pro-Bamako armed groups from the area, to be replaced temporarily by U.N. security.

A second political text addresses some demands by the rebel alliance, known as the Coordination of Azawad Movements. “There are two texts that we will sign today, one security and one political, that will allow the Coordination to go ahead and sign the final agreement, hopefully on June 20 in Bamako,” Hamdi told Reuters before a signing ceremony in Algiers. Pro-government armed groups seized Menaka from Tuareg separatists in April during fierce fighting that has complicated international efforts to get a final peace agreement.

Western powers are pushing for a conclusive accord, fearing that continued instability will allow Islamist militants to return to the north, from where a French military intervention drove them out. Tuaregs have risen up four times since Mali’s independence from France in 1960 to demand some form of self-rule. The Algiers document in March proposed more devolved powers for the north, a regional security force and a special development plan.

But it left the issue of Azawad’s political identity for a national debate between Malian parties. Mali’s government rejected any notion of full autonomy for Azawad in a federal system, but said it would devolve more authority under Mali’s existing decentralised structure. After signing the two documents, Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said

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