One of the three al-Qaida-linked groups currently controlling northern Mali said Wednesday it would not give up its harsh form of Islamic law, appearing to offer little ground in last-ditch talks meant to avert a military intervention to take back the region.

Members of Ansar Dine said they are willing to allow the rest of Mali to be governed by a different set of rules, but spokesman Mohamed Ag Aharib told reporters that asking his group to relinquish Shariah law in the area under their control is like asking them to give up being Muslim.

Ansar Dine is believed to be the most moderate of the three al-Qaida-linked groups currently in control of northern Mali. Representatives of the group have been meeting with Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, who has been appointed as a mediator, but the group’s unbending stance on Shariah casts doubt on whether the effort can make headway.

Earlier this week, the African Union approved a military plan that calls for a coalition of 3,300 African troops to be deployed in order to win back Mali’s north which fell to Islamic extremists in April.

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