US, France Urge UN to Approve African Force for Mali

Posted September 26th, 2012 at 1:55 pm (UTC-5)
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The United States and France are urging the United Nations to back a West African peacekeeping force for Mali, as it struggles to oust Islamist militants from the north.

Speaking at a high-level meeting at the United Nations in New York, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the region a “powder keg” the world cannot afford to ignore.

“We have to train the security forces in Mali, help them dislodge the extremists, protect human rights and defend borders,” she said. “We have seen the success of African-led efforts to do just that in Somalia and in Cote d'Ivoire and elsewhere.”

French President Francois Hollande said the force, made up of regional troops under the African Union, would combat terrorists and help Mali reorganize its military.

Tuareg separatists and Islamist militants swept the north after a March military coup that greatly weakened its military and government. Since then, extremists have pushed out separatist rebels.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon cautioned that any military action in Mali should be “considered extremely carefully.” But he urged nations not to “abandon” Mali or the Sahel, which face rising extremism, human rights abuses and food shortages.

Earlier this week, the Malian government and the regional bloc ECOWAS agreed on the deployment of West African troops under a U.N. mandate.

The Security Council must now approve the plan.

The U.N. says fighting in the north has displaced nearly 400,000 people this year. And it says more than 4.5 million people in the region face shrinking food supplies.