Malian envoy calls for calm over election deal

Mali's chief negotiator in talks with separatist rebels that paved the way for nationwide July elections called for the country to "calm things down" on Thursday amid criticism of the deal.

The Ouagadougou Accord, reached on Tuesday after 10 days of tense negotiations in neighbouring Burkina Faso, will enable Malian troops to enter the Tuareg-held northeastern city of Kidal to secure polls scheduled to take place on July 28.

"I have heard a lot of things -- that Mali is under trusteeship, that our army is under trusteeship," said Tiebile Drame on his return to Bamako.

"I think it is important to calm things down, to calm the situation because our country has come very far in very difficult situation.

"No one has the right, it seems to me, to contribute to stirring things up. The Ouagadougou Accord is meant to restore calm to Mali."

The Malian government signed the accord with the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and a smaller Tuareg group in Ouagadougou, the Burkinabe capital.

The two sides agreed to halt hostilities and organise peace talks after the election, but the Tuaregs were not pressed to lay down their weapons.

Malians welcomed the truce on the whole but critics raised doubts over the possibility of a long-term ceasefire, citing difficulties monitoring any disarmament and in differentiating Tuareg separatists from other militants.

"This is a debate... between those who believe that we can achieve our objectives through dialogue and diplomacy and those who prefer a risky military action with unpredictable consequences both domestically and in international terms," said Drame.

Malian President Dioncounda Traore launched a series of meetings with 35 party leaders on Thursday to explain the Ouagadougou accord with less than 40 days to go until the elections.

Younoussi Traore, the acting national assembly president and one of the first granted an audience, told AFP the president "gave us an update on negotiations" and "asked the political parties and all the Malian people to ensure that the elections go well".