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Africa

Mali asks UN to approve intervention force

The government of Mali has formally requested that the UN approve a mandate for an international force to recapture its northern regions from Islamist rebels. France has said it would provide logistical support.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Monday that the west African nation of Mali had submitted a letter calling on the United Nations to approve an "immediate" mandate for foreign forces to help recapture its lawless northern reaches from Islamist militants.

Fabius said that the letter had been submitted by Mali's interim government to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on September 18. The letter calls for the Security Council to pass a Chapter 7 resolution, which allows the use of military force. A spokesman for Ban confirmed that the letter had been received and was being reviewed, according to the Reuters news agency.

"For several months Mali has been confronted by an unprecedented security crisis in northern areas occupied by armed groups, including terrorists, drug traffickers and all types of criminals," Fabius told reporters, reading from the letter.

"The Malian government wants the immediate military presence of this force to support Mali's security forces to carry out this mission," the French foreign minister said on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York City.

France, Mali's former colonial ruler, has said it would provide logistical support to a military operation, but would not deploy its own troops.

Mali divided

Mali, once considered a democratic role model in Africa, was thrown into chaos when army officers overthrew the government of former president Amadou Toumani Toure in a coup on March 22.

The officers were upset over Toure's handling of ethnic Tuareg separatists fighting for independence in the country's north. The Tuaregs had received a boost of weapons and fighters from Libya after the collapse of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi's regime in 2011.

In the ensuing post-coup chaos, the Tuareg rebels managed to wrest the north from the control of the central government in Bamako. Islamist groups with alleged ties to al Qaeda subsequently managed to seize the north from the Tuareg separatists and impose Shariah law in many cities.

Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore has already submitted a request to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for military assistance. ECOWAS is the main economic and political bloc in the region.

The west African bloc has laid out a three-stage military operation to recapture the north, but disagreements with Bamako have delayed the process. An intervention by ECOWAS would require a UN mandate.

slk/jm (AFP, Reuters)