UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations on Thursday expressed concern over clashes between the Mali army and rebels but is pursuing beleaguered efforts to find a political solution to the country's crisis.
"We are concerned about the reported military movement of rebel groups along the frontline in northern Mali and the resulting tensions," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
The UN calls on the rebels to stick to a cessation of hostilities agreed on December 4 and to UN Security Council resolutions that urged them to move away from "terrorist" militants, Nesirky added.
Mali has been caught in spiraling military and political unrest since rebel groups took over the north of the country in March last year, taking advantage of a military coup in the capital.
The army and militant have clashed this week on the unofficial frontier between the two sides, casting new doubt on efforts to seek a negotiated settlement.
Two armed groups, Ansar Dine and the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA), were to have started talks with the government on Thursday but these have now been put back to January 21.
Ansar Dine and the MNLA, ethnic Tuareg separatists, are homegrown movements that mediators hope can be persuaded to reject militant with links to Al-Qaeda.
"The UN is supporting the mediation efforts of the Economic Community of West African States and we look forward to the resumption of negotiations now scheduled for January 21," Nesirky said.
A UN envoy, Said Djinnit, has been working on the political talks and a UN envoy on the Sahel region, Romano Prodi, was in Bamako on Thursday.