BAMAKO Oct 26 Algerian state energy group
Sonatrach will start long-awaited drilling for oil in Mali's
section of the Taoudeni Basin by mid-2012, the company's
managing director said on Malian state radio.
Sonatrach signed a deal for oil exploration in Mali in 2007,
but progress has been slow in the basin, which straddles Mali,
Algeria and Mauritania. The area is overrun by gunmen, some of
whom are linked to al Qaeda.
"I can confirm that we have been working to ensure that the
(first) well will be drilled before the end of the first
semester of 2012," Sonatrach Managing Director Nourdine
Cherouati said on Malian state radio on Wednesday.
The statement followed a visit this week to Algeria by
Mali's President Amadou Toumani Toure.
Algeria is a major energy producer and has long planned to
work with Mali, its southern neighbour, to develop potential oil
But relations between the states have been strained in
recent years due to the rising influence of Islamists in the
Analysts say Mali's weak control and alleged local
corruption have allowed gunmen linked to al Qaeda to set up
bases in the desert north.
Algeria has frequently accused Bamako of being too soft on
the fighters, who have made millions of dollars from ransom
payments for kidnapped foreigners and attacked regional security
(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by David Lewis, editing
by Jane Baird)