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UN backs France in Mali

January 15, 2013

The UN Security Council has expressed its approval of France's military intervention in Mali. The news comes as European leaders consider ways to help end the North African conflict.

French soldiers walk past a hangar they are staying at the Malian army air base in Bamako January 14, 2013. France plans to increase its troops in Mali to 2,500 in the days ahead and is working to speed up the deployment of West African troops for a campaign against Islamist rebels, the government said on Monday. REUTERS/Joe Penney (MALI - Tags: CONFLICT MILITARY POLITICS)
Image: Reuters

France's ambassador to the United Nations, Gerard Araud, greeted reporters with victorious news late on Monday, following a two-hour meeting with Security Council members in New York City.

The 14 other nations had given their "understanding and support" to France, Araud told reporters.

France launched an aerial campaign on Thursday at the request of Mali's government against al Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels advancing toward the capital, Bamako. The militants had gradually taken over the country's north in 2012 after a military coup plunged the region into chaos.

France was still seeking the full implementation of UN resolution 2085 - which outlines the legal boundaries of international military assistance that would lead to the restoration of Mali's government.

"Our goal is to go back to implementation of resolution 2085 as quickly as possible so that the African forces and the Malian forces take care of the problem and that there is a political agreement," Araud told reporters.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed his hopes on Monday that France's initiative would "help to arrest the latest [rebel] offensive."

Mali-Einsatz setzt EU unter Druck # 14.01.2013 20 Uhr # mali18a # Journal

The resolution needed to be implemented quickly, he added, in order to fully restore "Mali's constitutional order and territorial integrity."

The Security Council adopted resolution 2085 unanimously in December. Under its specifications, an African-led mission could be deployed to Mali in coordination with other partners, including the European Union.

International leaders mull involvement

US officials indicated on Monday they were considering options in helping France, according to the State Department.

"We share the French goal of denying terrorists a safe haven," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. "We are in consultation with the French now on a number of requests that they have made for support."

These echoed announcements made earlier in the day by Germany and the United Kingdom.

The German Cabinet had agreed, for example, to discuss supporting France's activities, "in the political, logistics, humanitarian and medical fields," Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

Britain also offered logistical and intelligence support; however, both nations ruled out sending in troops.

EU foreign leaders were scheduled to hold a special meeting this week to discuss military assistance in greater detail.

Rebels launch counteroffensive

Islamist rebels took the central town of Diabaly on Monday, according to France's Defense Ministry. The development came after they had launched a counteroffensive earlier in the day against Malian government forces backed by French air raids and ground troops.

Algeria announced its closure of its 2,000-kilometer (1,240-mile) border with the war-torn country as the fighting intensified.

Tens of thousands of civilian refugees have fled Mali during the latest fighting, according to the United Nations.

"It is feared that the number of people affected may be greater as it has been reported that some groups have prevented people from moving south," UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey told reporters on Monday.

kms/ccp (Reuters, AFP, dpa)