The UN Security Council has voted to approve the creation of an African military force to restore northern Mali to government control. The area has been controlled by rebels since an ill-fated coup earlier this year.
The resolution passed in a unanimous vote on Thursday, approving the deployment of an African-led intervention force to be known as AFISMA for a period of one year. The draft authorized the force to take "all necessary measures" to assist the government of Mali in efforts aimed at "recovering the areas in the north of its territory under the control of terrorist, extremist and armed groups."
"All necessary measures" is diplomatic code for the use of military force.
Despite authorizing the use of force, the resolution also stresses the need to continue efforts to reach a political solution.
The French-drafted resolution authorized European Union countries and other UN-member states to provide training and logistical support to Mali's armed forces.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has said that Bundeswehr troops could be sent to support such a mission, but that the idea of them getting involved in any actual combat operations was completely out of the question.
France, which has already pledged logistical support for the mission, has also ruled out sending combat troops.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had been pushing for the UN to authorize a force of around 3,000 troops to confront the rebels in northern Mali, some of which are said to be linked to the al Qaeda terror network.
Mali descended into chaos last March after an army captain led a coup that toppled the president over army discontent about the government's handling of a rebellion that was gaining ground in the north. Within a matter of days, the rebels exploited the power vacuum to cement their control of the north of the country.
pfd/msh (Reuters, dpa, AFP)