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PRETORIA, October 25 (Itar-Tass) —— The crisis in Mali should be settled through talks and free elections scheduled for the first quarter of 2013, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) said on Wednesday.
The Council met over the situation in Mali after rebels overthrew the elected government in March. The Council was expected to endorse a plan for the deployment of international forces to help the Malian government regain control over the country’s northern areas occupied by Islamist extremists.
The African Union lifted the suspension of Mali, which was barred from the pan-African bloc following a coup in March.
"Council decides to lift the suspension of Mali’s participation in the activities of the AU," the AU’s Peace and Security commissioner, Ramtane Lamamra, told reporters.
According to Lamamra, the African Union endorsed a plan urging the "restoration of state authority of the northern part of the country." The plan that calls for "the organisation of free, fair and transparent elections in the first quarter of next year” would be presented to the United Nations Security Council for endorsement, he said.
For these ends, Lamamra called on the Malian authorities "to establish as soon as possible the envisioned national structure that will be in charge of conducting negotiations with Malian armed groups in the north, the groups that are willing to engage in dialogue to find the political solution to the crisis on the basis of the strict respect for the national unity and territorial integrity of Mali.”
At the same time, he said that the issue of the deployment of the 3,200-men force of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) needs further elaboration.
"Council welcomes the ongoing effort for the rapid finalisation of the joint planning for the deployment of an African-led international force in Mali to respond to the request of the Malian authorities to regain control of the occupied territories in the north," he said.