UNITED NATIONS The U.N. Security Council will ask U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report by the end of March on the possibility of creating a peacekeeping force for Mali, French U.N. envoy Gerard Araud said on Wednesday.
France began a military offensive last month to drive out Islamist fighters, who had hijacked a revolt by Mali's Tuareg rebels and seized two-thirds of the West African country. Paris said Mali's vast desert North was in danger of becoming a springboard for extremist attacks on the region and the West.
France briefed the 15-member Security Council on the military operation that has also involved African forces.
"We're asking the secretary-general to make a report before the end of March about the modalities, the feasibility, the conditions of the creation of a peacekeeping operation," Araud told reporters.
"It will be on the basis of this report that ... we will table, eventually, a draft resolution for the creation of the peacekeeping operation, but again it will of course depend on the situation on the ground," he said.
A U.N.-backed African force, known as AFISMA, is due to take over the military operation when France begins to withdraw its 4,000 troops. Once combat operations end, AFISMA could be converted to a peacekeeping force, say diplomats.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)