Hundreds Protest Against Mali Peace Proposal as Factions Mull Response

Hundreds of protesters rallied for a second day in the northern Malian town of Kidal against a preliminary, U.N.-brokered peace proposal on Wednesday, as Tuareg separatist leaders gathered to discuss the agreement with their supporters. People in the crowd said the proposal, so far only signed by Mali's government, answered none of their demands, most importantly autonomy for the northern region they call Azawad. But the government and U.N. mediators say the deal -- which proposes more devolved powers for the north, a regional security force and a development plan -- is the best hope yet to end decades of Tuareg-led uprisings. Western powers, including former colonial ruler France, fear Islamist groups in the area could take advantage of continued chaos and use the region as a launchpad for foreign attacks.