BAMAKO, Mali (AFP) - A female lawmaker will run for president of Mali in elections due to be held in the troubled west African country next month.
Ms Aissata Cisse Haidara, 54, threw her hat into the ring on Saturday at a rally attended by several thousand supporters, mainly women and young people.
"I am a candidate, not just to make up the numbers but to play a role in the rebuilding of the Mali, which has become an unrecognisable country today," she said.
Ms Haidara is an MP for Bourem in northern Mali, the centre of the conflict which erupted after armed Tuareg rebels and Al-Qaeda linked extremists seized control of the vast desert area last year.
"We must develop all of Mali, although more must be done in the north. But we have to be careful because if you focus development in the north, the south will itself revolt."
International mediators have so far failed to secure a deal between Mali's President and the northern rebels that would enable elections to go ahead as planned nationwide on July 28.
The polls are seen as a key step in the recovery of Mali, a former French colony that was a stable democracy until a March 2012 coup triggered the occupation of the north by Islamist and Tuareg groups.
A French-led offensive launched in January saw the Islamists largely routed from the north, but the Tuareg group the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) controls the north-eastern regional capital of Kidal.
The MNLA said last week it was ready to sign an accord proposed by regional mediator Burkina Faso, but current Mali President Dioncounda Traore has yet to agree and the talks are continuing.
Among other candidates in the running for the presidency are former prime ministers Soumana Sacko and Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.