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Coalition of armed opposition groups balks at signing peace deal for restive northern Mali

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ALGIERS, Algeria — A coalition of armed opposition groups says it's not ready to sign a peace accord for restive northern Mali.

International mediators, some regional groups and Mali's government signed the accord Sunday, after nine months of peace negotiations hosted by neighboring Algeria. The agreement includes provisions for local elections and integrating armed groups into Mali's army.

The Coordination of Azawad Movements — a coalition of autonomy-minded groups including ethnic Arabs and Tuaregs known by the French language acronym CMA — praised the negotiations but wants more time to present the accord to locals before signing.

Shortly after the accord was announced, hundreds of demonstrators rallied in opposition to it in the northern Malian town of Kidal.

Mongi Hamdi, the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, called the accord "the most viable compromise" but acknowledged it "doesn't reflect all the parties' respective demands."

Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra, in closing remarks after Sunday's session, said he didn't believe that the move by CMA amounted to opposition to the accord, but rather a desire "to mobilize the maximum amount of support for this founding act for peace" in Mali. The French foreign minister, in a statement, also praised the deal.

In 2012, Tuareg rebel groups seized control of northern Mali, which they call Azawad, only for al-Qaida-linked militants to wrest control shortly afterward. Since then, the impoverished West African country has been in turmoil.

Two years ago, troops from France — the former colonial overseer in Mali — swooped in to disperse the al-Qaida-linked extremists. The U.N. peacekeeping mission later followed, and sporadic violence continues to trouble the region.


AP writer Baba Ahmed contributed from Bamako, Mali.

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