BAMAKO - An agreement between rebels in northern Mali to create an Islamic state hit trouble on Tuesday, May 28, over plans to implement Islamic Shari`ah.
"We want Shari`ah similar to that in Mauritania or even Egypt, Ibrahim Ag Assaleh, an MNLA Tuareg official in the northern city of Gao, told Reuters by telephone.
This point must be clarified.
MNLA and Al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine group have announced plans to create an Islamic state and implement Shari`ah in northern Mali.
But the two groups have differed on how strictly to impose Shari`ah, with Ansar Dine group wants to enforce hudud (Islamic penalties).
Assaleh said MNLA leader Iyad Ag Ghali was on his way to Gao for talks with Ansar Dine leaders to salvage the pact, which was signed by representatives of the two groups last week.
A second MNLA source confirmed that a disagreement had emerged, centered on what form of Shari`ah to impose.
"The strict application of Shari`ah, for example by cutting off hands, we don't agree with," the second source said.
Mali, once regarded as a fine example of African democracy, collapsed into chaos after soldiers toppled the president in March, leaving a power vacuum in the north that enabled rebels to take control of nearly two-thirds of the country.
A regionally backed transitional government has been set up in Bamako to organize new presidential elections within a year, though supporters of the ruling military junta oppose the plan.
Muslims make up more than 90 percent of Mali's nearly 12 million population.
The creation of an Islamic state and application of Shari`ah in northern Mali have already won opposition from a regional bloc.
"ECOWAS strongly condemns this opportunistic move, which will only worsen the plight of the populations already suffering atrocities and deprivation in the occupied Malian territory, and further threaten regional peace and security," it said.
French President Francois Hollande urged African leaders to appeal to the United Nations Security Council to tackle the worsening crisis in Mali.
"What we want is that these institutions (African Union, ECOWAS) go to the UN Security Council so that it finds a framework that allows stability to be restored in Mali and the wider Sahel," Hollande said after meeting Benin's president, Yayi Boni, who currently heads the African Union.
Asked whether France, the former colonial ruler, would be ready to help restore stability in Mali through military intervention, Hollande said Paris would abide by Security Council resolutions and would be ready to help if asked to.
He said he had consulted Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, who heads ECOWAS, on Tuesday and told him he wanted the regional institutions to take the issue to the Security Council "as soon as possible.""We don't want to interfere but we are aware of our responsibilities," Hollande said, adding that six French nationals were still being held in the Sahel by al Qaeda's north African wing.