PARIS Nov 30 France said on Friday it wanted
the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution by Dec. 20
mandating the deployment of an African Union mission to combat
Islamist extremists in northern Mali.
The fall of Mali's north to Islamist groups, including al
Qaeda's North African wing AQIM, has created a haven for
militants and international organized crime groups in West
Africa, stirring fears of attacks in Europe.
"We intend to move forward fairly quickly," Foreign Ministry
spokesman Philippe Lalliot told reporters. "It's a resolution
that could be voted between December 10-20."
France is the most vocal Western backer of a plan for
African troops to retake northern Mali. Seven French nationals
are being held hostage in the desert region.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday a war
plan drafted by African leaders was incomplete, leaving open
questions about how the force would be commanded, trained and
Ban did not offer U.N. funding for the mission and voiced
reservations about the United Nations' capacity to take on
"terrorists and affiliated groups".
Lalliot played down Ban's reservations about the strategic
operations plan, saying it was normal that details still needed
to be finalised.
The current head of the African Union, Benin President
Thomas Boni Yayi, sent a letter on Thursday expressing
frustration over the slow progress in mobilising an
international force to retake northern Mali.
"Any reticence about a military intervention would be
interpreted as a weakness and give fighters allied to al Qaeda
time to take more territory," the letter said, according to an
excerpt provided by Benin's presidency.
Ansar Dine, an Islamist group linked to al Qaeda, moved into
a town near Mali's border with Mauritania on Thursday after
separatist Tuareg rebels withdrew without a fight.