Tehran, 4 Rabiul Awwal 1434/16 January 2013 (MINA) – The world’s largest Muslim group, Organization Islamic Cooperation (OIC), called Tuesday (15/1) for a ceasefire in Mali, where French troops intervened to fight Islamists in the north of the African country.

      “We call for an immediate ceasefire in Mali and for all parties to go back to the negotiations which were led by Burkina Faso,” Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said in a statement, according to  OnIslam.net report received by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA).

       The OIC chief described the French military offensive in Mali as “premature”.  He also said, “We express deep concern over the military escalation,” Ihsanoglu said, calling for “maximum self-restraint from all parties at this critical time in order to reach a peaceful solution to this conflict.”

       France launched air strikes in Mali on Friday (11/1) to stop  the advance of Islamist oposition in the north.  This operation have won support from Western allies.

French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday (15/1) French soldiers had carried out further air strikes overnight “which hit their targets”, Reuters reported.

       “We will continue the deployment of forces on the ground and in the air,” Hollande said during a French military base in Abu Dhabi.  “We have 750 soldiers deployed at the moment and that will keep increasing so that as quickly as possible we can hand over to the Africans.”

        France plans to field a total 2,500 soldiers in its former colony to bolster the Malian army and work with the intervention force provided by the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) grouping of West African states.

         As French aircraft bombarded mobile columns of Islamist fighters, other insurgents launched a counter-attack further to the south, dislodging government forces from the town of Diabaly, 350 km (220 miles) from Bamako.

         Concerned about reprisals at home, France has tightened security at public buildings and on public transport.

         The UN said an estimated 30,000 people had fled the latest fighting in Mali, joining more than 200,000 already displaced.

          Mali, once regarded as a fine example of African democracy, collapsed into chaos after soldiers toppled the president Amadou Toumani Toure in March 2012, leaving a power vacuum in the north. (T/R-010/R-006)

Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)

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