Ivory Coast urges UN force for Mali

2012-12-11 12:59

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New York  - Ivory Coast Foreign Minister Charles Koffi Diby urged the UN Security Council on Monday to approve "in the coming days," an international force to confront extremist groups in northern Mali.

At a debate in the Council over the situation in the Sahel, which neighbors Mali, Diby stressed that the region "is gradually being transformed into a sanctuary for terrorist groups".

Deployment of the military mission is "vital", said Diby, president of the council of ministers for the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), calling for the adoption of a resolution authorising the force.

Tuareg rebels and al-Qaeda linked Islamists seized much of northern Mali in March, taking advantage of a military coup in the capital. Western powers fear the territory could become a safe haven for militant action across the region.

While the Mali government and African and UN envoys have sought political talks with the Islamists and Tuareg rebels, African nations want quick approval of the mission so that the training of Malian forces can start in the New Year.

Most of the troops for the intervention are expected to come from Ecowas, which says it has a 3 300 strong force on standby to help the Malian military retake its territory.

However, Romano Prodi, the UN special envoy for the Sahel, in a briefing about the situation said that "many months are needed to gather the strength requested for a credible, full range campaign."

"I would like to echo the views of the UN Secretary General (Kofi Annan) that any military effort in Mali must be undertaken after careful analysis and thorough preparation," said Prodi, who last month listed September 2013 as a possible date for deployment of the international force.

But Gerard Araud, the French ambassador to the United Nations, said that the overall political and military strategy for the Sahel had been delayed too long and must be passed by the Council.

Antonio Guterres, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees, however, remains cautious about deploying a military force.

"We should not forget that in any military intervention, even when successful, tens of thousands more people are likely to become displaced both inside the country and across borders," Guterres said.

Read more on:    un  |  ecowas  |  ivory coast  |  west africa
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