Officials charged with organising elections in Mali have expressed doubts over the ability of the war-torn west African nation to stage a nationwide poll in July.
Mamadou Diamoutani, president of the National Independent Electoral Commission said late Thursday that July 7, the date most often mooted for the first round of a presidential election, "would be a difficult to achieve".
He said there were a number of "preconditions" to meet ahead of July 7, which has not yet been officially announced as the date for the poll, including the establishment of a comprehensive electoral roll.
Meanwhile the transitional government's director general for elections, Siaka Sangare, said he did not have "means" to establish the list in such a tight time frame.
Both spoke on the sidelines of a meeting organised by US non-governmental organisation the National Democratic Institute in the capital Bamako to set out the process for elections.
Mali called on France's help in January to halt an Islamist advance on Bamako and French and African troops have since pushed the Al-Qaeda-linked militants into desert and mountain hideouts, from where they are staging guerrilla attacks.
France has insisted that its former colony needs to hold presidential elections by July in order to establish the legitimacy of the Malian government.
The country is led by a transitional administration set up after a military coup in March last year that toppled the regime of President Amadou Toumani Toure and precipitated the downfall of the country's north to the insurgents.
The extremists imposed a brutal version of Islamic sharia law in Mali's northern cities, leading to a mass exodus of some 400,000 refugees, both abroad and to other parts of the country.
Most have not returned and observers have questioned Mali's ability to get these people into ballot boxes by July.
Kidal, the third largest city in Mali's vast desert north, is under the control of the ethnic Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad which refuses to disarm or accept the presence of the Malian army and has said it will not cooperate in polls without power-sharing talks.