African Union seeks mandate to send troops to Mali
PARIS (Reuters) - The African Union has asked the U.N. Security Council for a resolution that would allow military intervention in Mali, where Islamist militants have become an international security threat, the union's commission chief said on Tuesday.
Jean Ping said union officials would meet Security Council representatives in New York to discuss the issue further, but he did not give any date for the meeting or details of proposed military aims in the West African state.
Mali, once regarded as a good example of African democracy, collapsed into chaos after soldiers toppled the president in March, leaving a power vacuum that enabled Tuareg rebels from the north to take control of nearly two-thirds of the country.
The uprising also involved both local and foreign Islamist militants, and Western diplomats talk of the risk of the country turning into a "West African Afghanistan".
Mali's former colonial ruler France has six of its citizens held hostage in an unknown location in the region by al Qaeda's north African arm. It has said it would be ready to help restore stability in Mali if there was a Security Council resolution.
Speaking in Gabon, Ping told France 24 TV he expected the Security Council to agree to a resolution allowing military intervention in Mali because world powers knew the country was "lawless".
However he said efforts were still being made to bring the Tuareg-led Malian rebel group MNLA and local Islamist group Ansar Dine to the negotiating table.
"If we don't manage to (reach agreement) then we will have to use force. That seems more and more necessary," he said.
Ping said he initially approached the Security Council after being urged to take action by the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), an umbrella group of 15 countries aimed at promoting regional co-operation.
"The (African Union) Peace and Security Council is meeting in New York the Security Council and one of the questions to be discussed will be this (military intervention)," Ping told the television channel.
(Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Pravin Char)
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