France Pushing for Deal With Tuareg Rebels in Mali

Could sour relations with the Malian government


BAMAKO (Reuters)—After winning adulation across Mali for a five month military offensive that crushed al Qaeda fighters, France is now frustrating some of its allies by pushing for a political settlement with a separate group of Tuareg rebels.

A standoff over how to restore Malian government authority to Kidal, the last town in the desert north yet to be brought under central control, is sowing resentment with Paris and could delay planned elections to restore democracy after a coup.

Mali's army has moved troops towards Kidal, a stronghold of the MNLA Tuareg separatists, but missed a self-imposed deadline this week to retake the Saharan town. France, which has its own forces camped outside, does not want Malian troops to march on the town, fearing ethnic bloodshed if it is taken by force.