Political, not military action needed in Mali, Algeria says

ALGIERS Tue Nov 20, 2012 12:43pm EST

ALGIERS (Reuters) - International military intervention in Mali would be an "adventure" that would never succeed, Algeria warned on Tuesday, urging a political solution to pave the way for isolating al Qaeda-linked rebels and organized crime networks.

Military experts from Africa, the United Nations and Europe have drafted plans to retake control of northern Mali, which fell to rebels in March after a coup in the capital Bamako created a power vacuum.

Algeria, which shares a 2,000 km (1,242 mile) border with Mali, fears a military offensive could push al Qaeda militants back into southern Algeria and could trigger a refugee crisis as displaced Malian Tuaregs would head north to Algeria.

"Seeking to restore the unity of Malian territory by force is an adventure that will never succeed, because it will lead to a military confrontation that could exacerbate tensions in the region," Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia said on state radio.

He said a top priority for Algeria was to help bring armed groups, including the independence-seeking Tuareg MNLA and the al Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine, to the negotiating table.

"You need a political solution by bringing people in the north, whether from the MNLA or Ansar Dine, to negotiate freely with the central authorities in Bamako to reach a solution for the reunification of this country," he said.

"After that, the war against terrorist groups and drug traffickers, which is essential to expurgate the area of the whole threat, will be much easier."

Although Algiers would not be able to veto an intervention operation by other countries, it would be diplomatically risky for African states backed by Western powers to intervene in Mali without its consent, especially as the conflict could drag on for many months.

(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Editing by Silvia Antonioli and Jon Hemming)

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