Mali's main political party makes presidential pick

Mali's main political party has nominated an ally of the country's interim leader as its candidate for the presidential election planned for July, it told AFP on Thursday.

Dramane Dembele, who was picked ahead of 18 other hopefuls for the nomination by the Alliance for Democracy in Mali, is already high up in the leadership but, aged just 46, was not a favourite due to his deemed lack of experience.

Dembele, a mining engineer from the western city of Segou, is considered close to acting President Diocounda Traore, having been the interim leader's student at the National School of Engineers of Bamako.

He was among a number of people arrested in April last year and then freed a few weeks later after a military coup that overthrew the regime of president Amadou Toumani Toure.

No date has yet been set for the presidential election but the transitional authorities in Bamako, under pressure from the international community, are committed to a July vote.

Observers have voiced doubts over the possibility of elections within such a tight timescale, mainly because of continued instability in the north, where armed Islamists were ousted from towns by a French-led military intervention in January, but maintain desert hideouts.