Mali president meets protest leader first time after massive protests
Demonstrators hold a placard in French reading "This regime is a coronavirus for Mali" as they protest in the capital Bamako, Mali, June 5, 2020. /AP

Demonstrators hold a placard in French reading "This regime is a coronavirus for Mali" as they protest in the capital Bamako, Mali, June 5, 2020. /AP

The Mali presidency posted a video on Twitter earlier Sunday of the meeting between President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Mahmoud Dicko, the leading figure of the protest, in the capital Bamako on Saturday.

It was the first official meeting between the two men since two demonstrations last month drew tens of thousands to the streets.

Hours after the meeting, Dicko called for more demonstration and the resignation of the president, dimming hopes of peace progress.

Earlier, Dicko said he had hoped to find a solution to the standoff after meeting the president. It was reported by AFP that the opposition leader had said that Keita's resignation would no longer be a condition for talks.

Keita, who has been in power since 2013, also met representatives of other political parties with the aim of "easing the political situation", the presidency said.

But the opposition coalition of religious leaders, politicians and civil society figures on Sunday said in a statement Keita had "ignored the demands" of the movement.

These requests included the dissolution of parliament and the formation of a transitional government whose movement would appoint the prime minister.

The movement "reaffirms its determination to obtain by legal and legitimate means the outright resignation" of the head of state, the opposition coalition statement said.

"My role as an imam, as I have said, obliges me to be someone who always considers peace as being essential: peace in our country, the sub-region and in the world."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on June 21, called for restraint in Mali after massive protests re-emerged in the country.

The UN chief called on all political leaders in Mali to send clear messages to their supporters to exercise the utmost restraint and to refrain from any action likely to fuel tensions. He also stressed the importance of dialogue and encouraged all Malian actors to work inclusively and constructively to preserve the rule of law and respect fundamental rights.

The slow pace of political reform, a flagging economy, a lack of funding for public services and schools and a widely shared perception of government corruption have fed anti-Keita sentiment.

Last month's protests followed demonstrations in May over the results of March's long-delayed parliamentary elections – which Keita's party won – as well as over coronavirus restrictions.

The 75-year-old president has taken a conciliatory stance since the demonstrations began, mooting a national unity government in a June 14 address to the nation. Protest leaders rejected that offer.

(With input from agencies)