AU reinstates Mali ahead of planned military action

ADDIS ABABA Wed Oct 24, 2012 3:58pm EDT

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ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - The African Union (AU) lifted Mali's suspension from the bloc on Wednesday and said an African plan for military intervention to help the country reclaim territory from Islamist militants would be ready within weeks.

The pan-African body suspended Mali's membership in March, days after mutinous soldiers staged a coup against then President Amadou Toumani Toure, and said it would only be reinstated once constitutional order was restored.

The West African country, however, remains crippled by twin crises. The leadership in Bamako is still divided after the coup that toppled the president, and the north of the country is occupied by Islamic militants.

"(The Peace and Security) Council decides to lift the suspension of Mali from the activities of the AU. Mali is therefore invited to participate in full," Ramtane Lamamra, AU Peace and Security Commissioner, told reporters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Lamamra spoke after a meeting of ministers of the AU's PSC which also endorsed a "strategic concept" that outlined measures including elections and defense and security reforms to help return of law and order to Mali.

The document said Mali's return to the AU fold would help establish an inclusive political authority.

"We are working ... to finalize the joint planning for the early deployment of an African-led international military force to help Mali recover the occupied territories in the North," Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairwoman of the AU Commission, earlier told the PSC.

"At the same time, we will leave the door of dialogue open to those Malian rebel groups willing to negotiate," she said.

Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Tuesday Europe must help restore security in Mali and could lend support through military training to an African-led mission.

(Editing by Richard Lough and Sophie Hares)

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