France wants U.N. Security Council push on Mali

PARIS Tue Apr 3, 2012 2:48pm BST

1 of 2. Malians queue to stock up on petrol at a garage in the capital Bamako April 3, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Luc Gnago

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PARIS (Reuters) - France is pushing for the U.N. Security Council to issue a statement on Mali later on Tuesday to show its support of the 15-state West African bloc ECOWAS's efforts to find a solution to the escalating crisis.

Speaking to reporters, Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said Paris had put forward several topics of discussion that it wanted the Security Council to back.

For long one of the most stable democracies in West Africa, Mali has plunged into turmoil since a widely condemned March 22 coup that emboldened Tuareg rebels to seize half the country in their quest for a northern homeland.

They have been joined by Islamists bent on imposing sharia, Islamic law, across the whole of the moderate Muslim state, making it the latest security headache for a region battling al Qaeda agents and home-grown militant groups such as Nigeria's Boko Haram.

Valero, who returned from an ECOWAS meeting with Foreign Minister Alain Juppe on Monday, said Paris had proposed that the U.N. Security Council declare its attachment to the unity and territorial integrity of Mali, call for an immediate end to the rebellion, restore constitutional order and condemn attacks committed by al Qaeda's north African wing, AQIM.

Juppe said over the weekend that Paris ruled out intervening militarily as it did last year in Ivory Coast. He said France could, however, provide logistical support if ECOWAS did decide to send in troops.

ECOWAS decided on Monday to impose diplomatic, trade and financial sanctions on Mali's junta with immediate effect. ECOWAS military chiefs will discuss later this week to "activate" a standby ECOWAS military force, but gave no detail on when and how it would be deployed.

France, the former colonial ruler, is Mali's fourth-largest donor of aid - a vital source of income in one of the world's poorest countries - and it also trains and equips government forces. Since the rebellion, it has suspended its cooperation, but has maintained aid to the population and advised its 5,000 citizens living in the West African state to leave.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

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