Lisbon has had "no contact" with Senegalese separatist rebels, nor have they informed it of their reported desire for Portuguese mediation in the Casamance crisis, an official of Portugal's Foreign Ministry told IRIN on Thursday.
"There has been no contact," the official said in response to a report on Wednesday by the Portuguese news agency, Lusa, which said rebels of the Mouvement de forces democratique de la Casamance (MFDC) wanted Lisbon to mediate and end 17 years of war in the area.
Lusa had quoted the MFDC's secretary-general, Mamadou Sane -who is also its overseas spokesman- as saying Portuguese foreign minister "Jaime Gama could play a crucial role in the search for a solution".
Casamance's rebellion has recently been closely linked to events in Guinea Bissau, where a furore about arms shipments by some Guinea Bissau authorities to the MFDC resulted in the overthrow of President Joao Bernardo Vieira.
Sane told Lusa that the conflict dated to a convention signed in 1886 when Portugal, the former colonial power in Guinea Bissau, ceded Casamance to then French colony of Senegal.
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