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African Union lifts Mali suspension

The African Union has ended the suspension it imposed on Mali after a military coup in March.

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African Union Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma addresses the AU Peace and Security Council on October 24, 2012 in Addis Abada. The AU Peace and Security Council met today to discuss the ongoing negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan and the continued crisis in Mali, where al Qaeda-linked rebels have taken over much of the country's north following a coup in March. (JENNY VAUGHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The African Union has ended Mali's suspension from the pan-African organization, a measure imposed following a military coup in March.

The AU also on Wednesday backed a "road map" calling for elections in the landlocked West African nation by April, and a military intervention within weeks aimed at gaining back territory lost to Islamist militants.

AU spokesman Ramtane Lamamra said the bloc had voted to reinstate Mali, Reuters reported.

"The road map provides for elections to be held 12 months after the return to constitutional order, meaning April," Lamamra told Reuters after a meeting in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, where the AU is headquartered.

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Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairwoman of the AU Commission, said the organization is working with Malian authorities, West African regional group ECOWAS, the UN, EU and other partners to finalize planning for the deployment of an African-led force to help Mali recover territory claimed by Islamist militants. 

The AU "will leave the door of dialogue open to those Malians willing to negotiate on the basis of a clear commitment to the respect of Mali’s unity, territorial integrity and rejection of links with terrorist and criminal groups," a statement said.

Extremist groups such as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, or NMLA, have imposed Sharia law in northern Mali, an area the size of France, and carried out brutal justice on local residents,including public floggings and amputations.

It is feared northern Mali will become a breeding ground for Al Qaeda-linked terrorists.

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