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UN mission chief in Mali pushing for negotiations to resume quickly between rebels, govt

The head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali is calling for negotiations to resume between the country's government and separatist rebels.

Bert Koenders told The Associated Press on Saturday that "my wish is that the negotiations start as soon as possible to reassure the population of northern Mali."

His comments come after the ethnic Tuareg separatist rebels agreed to a ceasefire after a week of violence that left at least eight civilians dead in the northern town of Kidal.

Mali's government and the rebels signed an agreement last June that allowed the Malian military to return to Kidal for the first time since the last separatist rebellion was sparked in early 2012.

The violence in Kidal has raised fears about destabilization across the north.