Malian authorities are insisting on a military presence in the troubled northern city of Kidal before the country can hold presidential elections.

Malian Foreign Minister Tieman Coulibaly told The Associated Press in Paris Tuesday that "we can't leave Kidal in the hands of armed groups ... so the Malian army must go to Kidal."

That tough position makes it more difficult to find a compromise with the rebels who are ruling the city. Elections are expected at the end of July.

Kidal is currently controlled by the Tuaregs of the rebel National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, or NMLA, who are threatening to go to war if the Malian army tries to return to Kidal, accusing the military of systematically targeting the lighter-skinned ethnic groups in the north.