U.N. urges Mali peace accord at Algiers talks

U.N. Head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous (C) speaks to members of United Nations Security Council during a meeting on the Ebola crisis at the U.N. headquarters in New York , October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz (Reuters)

By Lamine Chikhi ALGIERS (Reuters) - The United Nations peacekeeping chief on Saturday urged the Malian government to show a strong signal of its commitment to peace as negotiations with rebels restarted. U.N. Undersecretary General Herve Ladsous was visiting Algiers, where the Algerian government is hosting negotiations between Mali's government and six mostly Tuareg rebel groups. “Mali’s government should send a strong signal of its commitment to achieve peace,” Ladsous said at the start of the talks. Clashes between armed groups and pro-government militias killed at least six people in northern Mali in recent days, Tuareg rebels said on Friday. Mali's vast desert north has risen up four times in the last 50 years, with different groups fighting for independence or differing levels of self-rule. French troops were dispatched to Mali last year to force back al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants who occupied swathes of northern Mali. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was elected last year partly for taking a firm stand on the north. He is under pressure from the south not to give in to rebel demands. Talks advanced in June after a preliminary accord. But analysts said the rebels had to make concrete proposals and overcome splits in their ranks. (Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Andrew Roche)