January 11, 2015 / 10:24 AM / 5 years ago

Mali's president names new government ahead of peace talks

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita attends a ceremony marking Mali's 54th Independence Day in Bamako September 22, 2014. REUTERS/Joe Penney

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has approved a new government, the third since he took power less than two years ago, ahead of fresh peace talks with separatists in the troubled north of the vast West African nation.

Mali is still recovering from a period of heavy turbulence following an incursion by al Qaeda-linked Islamists in 2012 into the desert north. The incursion prompted a French military intervention in the following year.

Despite Keita’s pledges to create a strong, united Mali, Islamist militants continue to carry out sporadic attacks in the north — a region also claimed by mostly armed Tuareg separatist groups.

In his decree, issued late on Saturday, Keita appointed Tieman Hubert Coulibaly, who served in Keita’s first government, as defense minister. It also named Mamadou Igor Diarra as economy and finance minister.

There was no change at the key foreign affairs and mines ministries.

The decree comes after Keita last Thursday named Modiba Keita, who is not a relation of the president, as Mali’s new prime minister.

Last year, Modiba Keita headed the government delegation in negotiations with the northern separatists. His main challenge now will be the launch of fresh peace talks with the separatists set for later this month in Algiers.

The troubled northern region, named Azawad by the native Tuaregs, has risen up four times against the central Bamako government in the last five decades, seeking independence or a form of self-rule.

The new government list includes a second Tuareg member, Mohamed Ag Erlaf, as environment minister.

Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Gareth Jones

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