* 230,000 Malians displaced since March 2012 - UN
* UN Security Council to meet on Mali at 2000 GMT
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 14 Tens of thousands of
civilians are fleeing the latest outbreak of fighting in Mali
that has led to French air strikes against Islamist strongholds
in the northern part of the country, the United Nations said on
"An estimated 30,000 people may have been displaced as a
direct result of the fighting in Central/Northern Mali," U.N.
spokesman Eduardo del Buey told reporters.
"It is feared that the number of people affected may be
greater as it has been reported that some Islamist groups have
prevented people from moving south," he added.
Del Buey said the Interior Ministry in neighboring
Mauritania had confirmed that thousands of refugees were en
route from Mali to the Mauritanian border. No significant
numbers of refugees had been observed arriving in Burkina Faso
and Niger, he added.
"Since March 2012, some 230,000 people have been displaced
by the fighting and insecurity in Mali," he said.
Northern Mali fell under Islamist control after a March
military coup in Bamako triggered a Tuareg-led rebel offensive
that seized the north and split the West African nation in two.
France, which has poured hundreds of troops into the Malian
capital Bamako in recent days, carried out more air raids on
Monday in the vast desert area seized last year by an Islamist
alliance grouping al Qaeda's north African wing, AQIM, alongside
Mali's home-grown MUJWA and Ansar Dine militant
France called for a new U.N. Security Council meeting on
Monday to update the 15-nation body on developments in Mali. Del
Buey said U.N. political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman would
brief the 3:00 p.m. EST (2000 GMT) council meeting on the
situation in Mali.
France informed the council on Friday that its military
operations in support of the Malian army against Islamist rebels
in the north would last as long as needed. It also called for an
acceleration of deployment of an African-led force in support of
the Malian army, in line with council resolution 2085.
The original timetable for the U.N.-authorized AFISMA
intervention force of 3,300 West African troops with Western
logistical, financial and intelligence backing did not foresee
deployment before September, to allow time for full preparation.
Resolution 2085 was approved unanimously in December.
Although it authorized military intervention in Mali, it set
benchmarks for preparations for the operation. But it also
authorized U.N. members to provide "coordinated assistance" to
help Mali restore authority over the entire country.
"Resolution 2085 has been overtaken by events, as you've
seen, over the weekend," del Buey said, adding that "the