Tuareg rebels have declared a ceasefire after seizing control of northern Mali, saying they have captured enough territory to form an independent homeland.
Rebels with the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) said Thursday they may declare a separate republic in Mali's north within a few days, the BBC reported.
The end to fighting is intended to allow humanitarian aid to resume in northern Mali, a spokesman for the MNLA told the Associated Press.
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Renegade soldiers, frustrated over their government's handling of the Tuareg rebellion, seized control of Mali in a military coup on March 22.
In the chaos that followed, Tuareg rebels backed by Al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters rapidly took control of the country's north, including the key towns of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu.
Nearly all of Timbuktu's 300 Christians have fled the ancient desert city since it fell to the rebels, who plan to impose sharia law, the AP reported.
Meanwhile, West African military leaders met Thursday in the Ivory Coast to draft plans for a possible armed intervention to oust Mali's junta from power.
France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has called for negotiations with the rebels, saying there could be no military solution, Agence France-Presse reported.
Juppe told AFP this week that France fears the Tuareg rebels are increasingly dominated by Islamists with close ties to Al Qaeda.
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