EU ministers 'alarmed' by reports of rights abuse in Mali

Alarmed by reports of rights abuse in Mali, EU foreign ministers Thursday called on the Malian government to investigate, while urging the quick dispatch of international observers.

"The European Union is alarmed by allegations of human rights violations and calls on the Malian authorities to investigate immediately," the bloc's 27 ministers said in a statement.

Those responsible would be held to account, the statement added, saying that the EU was ready to support any action to stop such violations.

"It also calls for the rapid mobilisation of observers" as well as international support "notably to monitor the respect of human rights across Mali," the EU statement added.

France, whose surprise military intervention in Mali on January 11, has forced a quick retreat from the north by Islamist forces, also favours the swift deployment of an international observation mission to monitor possible rights abuse.

Rights groups have voiced fears of widespread abuses and reprisals against Tuaregs and Arabs after reports of killings by Malian government forces.

The 27 EU ministers meanwhile praised Mali's parliament for adopting a political roadmap this week that includes a commitment to hold July 31 elections and negotiations with representatives of the north.

France, which also welcomed that development, is pushing for a political settlement between the provisional government in Bamako and the Tuaregs in the north, who want a degree of self-rule.

The political breakthrough will enable EU governments to begin releasing almost 250 million euros of economic aid suspended after last year's March military coup, the ministers said.

"The adoption of the roadmap is an essential step forward towards the complete re-establishment of constitutional order, including civilian control over the armed forces and the control of the state over all of Mali's territory," the statement said.

"This move forward will enable the gradual resumption of European development aid," the statement said.