Deal between 2 rebel groups in Mali still on

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The leader of a Tuareg separatist movement in northern Mali has denied reports that a deal the group signed with an Islamic rebel faction to work toward creation of an Islamic state in the region is off.

Bilal Ag Cherif, the secretary-general of the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, or NMLA, said Friday his group is still bound by an in-principle agreement signed Saturday with the Islamic group Ansar Dine, and that discussions are ongoing.

Members of the NMLA outside Mali claimed Thursday that the deal was off, saying the movement was secular and would never accept the imposition of Shariah law.

Ag Cherif said they perhaps do not understand the reality of what was happening on the ground.