The minister responsible for organising elections meant to haul Mali out of crisis said Friday the timeline can be changed, after interim president Dioncounda Traore raised eyebrows by promising a vote by July 31.
Mali is struggling to claw its way out of a crisis unleashed by a March 22 coup that ousted democratically elected president Amadou Toumani Toure, creating a power vacuum that Islamist rebels exploited to seize the north of the country.
A French-led military operation launched on January 11 has pushed the rebels from the towns they controlled.
But critics said July was still too soon to organise the presidential and parliamentary polls given the problems Mali faces, including ongoing insurgent attacks, a deeply divided military and hundreds of thousands of people who have fled their homes.
Territorial Administration Minister Moussa Sinko Coulibaly, an army colonel who was part of the ruling junta before it handed power to Traore's transitional government, said Friday the timeline laid down by the interim president last month was flexible.
"The organisation (of the elections) will depend on the timeliness with respect to the ongoing military operations," he said.
"The July deadline can be changed if necessary," he added.
"Our goal... is not to make deadlines but to get out of this crisis."
He also acknowledged the challenges of ensuring displaced voters will be able to cast ballots.
Some 380,000 people have fled northern Mali since the conflict began, including more than 150,000 who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, according to UN figures.
"We're aware that it will be difficult to organise the elections at the end of July with refugees participating," he said.
The elections are part of a roadmap adopted unanimously by parliament late last month to restore constitutional rule in what was once considered one of west Africa's most stable democracies.