BOLOGNA, Italy International envoys will meet in Rome next week to coordinate strategy on Mali, where much of the north of the country is held by al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants, former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said on Wednesday.
Prodi, the U.N. envoy to the troubled Sahel region, told Reuters the meeting would focus on coordinating positions against terrorism, humanitarian issues, encouraging dialogue, and reinforcing political structures so that elections could eventually be held.
"Dialogue among the forces in Mali is not simple but it is possible," he said at an economic conference in northern Italy. The meeting will be held on December 7.
Envoys from the United Nations, the African Union, France and other countries will attend, he said.
Islamist militants took advantage of the chaos surrounding a March coup to seize the northern two thirds of the country. European leaders are growing increasingly anxious Mali could turn into a platform for militant attacks, including in Europe.
West African leaders will this month seek a U.N. mandate to dispatch a mainly West African force of some 4,000 to Mali tasked with rebuilding its army and then backing operations to win back the occupied desert zones.
(Reporting Valentina Accardo, writing by Philip Pullella; editing by Jason Webb)