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Mali's Interim PM Forms Government

Mali's interim prime minister Cheick Modibo Diarra on Wednesday formed a government of 24 members, including three representatives of the military.

The three will hold the defense, interior and civil protection portfolios in the west African country where the military seized power in a coup last month before relinquishing control under a deal brokered by west African bloc ECOWAS, said an official speaking on condition of anonymity.

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Swiss Hostage Released in Mali

Special forces from Burkina Faso swept into rebel-held northern Mali on Tuesday aboard a helicopter and whisked a Swiss hostage to safety in a pre-arranged handover by Islamist rebels.

Beatrice Stockly, her face clear of the black turban the rebels had her wear, appeared tired but in high spirits on the helicopter flying her to Ouagadougou after the rebel group Ansar Dine handed her over in Timbuktu.

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AU Meets on Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Sudan and S. Sudan Conflict

The African Union's peace and security body met Tuesday to discuss ongoing political crises in Mali and Guinea-Bissau and the escalating conflict between Sudan and South Sudan, urging immediate end to the conflicts.

"It is important... to find fast, equitable, just and durable solutions to the conflict in Guinea-Bissau and in Mali," AU security commissioner Ramtane Lamamra said at the meeting's opening.

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Mali Red Cross Transports Supplies to Rebel-Held Timbuktu

The Malian Red Cross said Saturday it was able to transport five tons of supplies and medicine to Timbuktu, in the grip of a humanitarian crisis after being seized by rebels.

"We took five tons of supplies and rice, to the Timbuktu hospital, mats, blankets, but also medicine," Red Cross president Adam Diarra told Agence France Presse after leaving the fabled city where the team arrived on Thursday.

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Mali PM Ready for Talks with Rebels, but Not Under Duress

Mali's new interim Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra said Friday he was ready for talks with armed groups who have seized control of the country's north -- but not under duress.

In his first speech to the nation Diarra addressed "residents of the north who are suffering from an aggression as barbaric as it is incomprehensible" as a result of their towns being held by Tuareg rebels and hardline Islamists.

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Tuareg Rebel Calls Meeting with Malian Officials 'Positive'

A leader of the Tuareg rebel group that has declared an independent state in northern Mali said Monday that a first official meeting between the rebels and Malian authorities had gone well.

"We've had official contact with the Malian delegation that we can describe as positive," Hamma Ag Mahmoud, a member of the political branch of the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA), told Agence France Presse after the meeting late Sunday in Mauritanian capital Nouakchott.

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Switzerland: Swiss Woman Kidnapped in Mali's Timbuktu

Switzerland on Monday confirmed that a female national had been kidnapped in Mali's Timbuktu, the fabled city seized by Islamists following after a coup in the west African nation.

A statement by the federal department of foreign affairs (FDFA) in Bern said that authorities were in contact with the woman's family and "were making every effort to ensure the kidnap victim is released unharmed," but did not identify her.

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Mali President Resigns, Interim Leader Prepares for Transition

Mali's President Amadou Toumani Toure, who was toppled in a military coup 17 days ago, formally resigned Sunday in a move paving the way for the departure of the junta that ousted him.

Under the terms of a transition deal with the West African bloc ECOWAS, the junta's leaders said they would allow a return to democracy once Toure formally quit.

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Mali Islamist Rebel Group Says against Tuareg Independence

The Islamist group Ansar Dine says that despite battling alongside the main Tuareg rebels in northern Mali, it is against their declaration of independence and is simply fighting for Islam.

"Our war is a holy war. It's a legal war in the name of Islam. We are against rebellions. We are against independence. We are against revolutions not in the name of Islam," its military chief Omar Hamaha said, in a video obtained by Agence France Presse.

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Report: Algeria Rules Out Mali Split, Foreign Intervention

Algeria is opposed to Mali's break-up and wants dialogue to resolve the crisis with its southern neighbor, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia was quoting as saying Friday, warning against foreign intervention.

Algeria "will never accept questioning Mali's territorial integrity," Ouyahia told France's Le Monde newspaper on Thursday, before a Tuareg rebel group had declared the independence of their desert homeland they call Azawad.

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