Advancing Mali rebels enter key city

Advancing Mali rebels enter key city

Heavily armed Malian rebels in pick-up trucks attacked the northern garrison town of Gao on Saturday, capitalising on the chaos after last week's military coup to make further gains.

The assault came a day after rebels - a loose alliance of separatist nomad Tuaregs and local Islamists - seized the town of Kidal, which is one of the three main towns of Mali's north, along with Gao and the historic trading city of Timbuktu.

Junta leaders, whose neighbours have given them until Monday to return power to civilians or face a crippling closure of trade borders and other sanctions, pledged to come up with proposals "very quickly" to restore constitutional order.

"We do not want to confiscate power," Colonel Moussa Sinko Coulibaly told reporters in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, after talks with Burkina President Blaise Compaore, the main mediator in the crisis.

"We will try to refine proposals to quickly reach an institutional solution acceptable to (West African bloc) ECOWAS, the international community but also of course our national community," said Coulibaly, head of cabinet for junta leader Amadou Sanogo.

In northern Mali, a Reuters reporter saw the rebels entering the town of Gao and hoisting the flag of Azawad, the desert territory bigger than France that they want to make their homeland, before pulling back after meeting resistance.