Mali

UN Preparing To Start Deployment of Peacekeepers in Mali

Scheduled to begin in three weeks

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The UN is preparing to start deploying a new peacekeeping force in Mali on schedule in three weeks, even though the security situation in the north remains "complex and volatile", the UN chief has said.

Ban Ki-moon's statement on Monday came amid reports that a Malian government delegation and Tuareg MNLA rebels had reached an agreement "in principle" that would allow planned elections in July to go ahead in the disputed northern Kidal region, according to a senior mediator in the talks.

Negotiations in the capital of neighbouring Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, opened on Saturday, after Mali's army last week began advancing towards Kidal, the MNLA's last stronghold in the remote northeast, in the first direct fighting in months.

In late April, the UN Security Council authorised a UN peacekeeping force comprising 11,200 military personnel and 1,440 international police to replace a 6,000-member African-led mission in Mali on July 1.