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December 20, 2012

UN Security Council Authorizes Foreign Troops to Mali

by Margaret Besheer

The United Nations Security Council has authorized the deployment of foreign troops to help reunite Mali, but is demanding efforts toward political reconciliation, elections and the training of the army.

Council members voted unanimously Thursday to approve the resolution aimed at restoring peace, protecting human rights and removing a terrorist threat from that African country.

Mali's Foreign Minister Tieman Coulibaly called the decision a historic step that will help restore power to Mali's legitimate government.

French Ambassador to the U.N. Gerard Araud said the European Union will support efforts to stabilize Mali and look for donors to help finance it.

Speaking to reporters after the Security Council vote Thursday, Araud said no date has been set for military action in Mali.  He expressed hope that armed intervention will not be necessary.

The resolution does not specify the size of the force, but the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, has been making plans to send between 3,000 and 4,000 troops to Mali.

The resolution says the force will help rebuild the Malian army, support Malian authorities in recovering the north, and create a safe environment for delivery of humanitarian aid.

Al-Qaida-linked militant groups seized control of the north in April, soon after renegade soldiers toppled Mali's elected president.

The militants have imposed a harsh form of Islamic law, enforced in part through public executions, amputations and floggings of alleged criminals.

The U.N. resolution does not give a date when military operations will begin. It says the military planning will "need to be further refined before the commencement of the offensive operation."

It calls on member states to contribute troops and funding to the force, which will be known as the African-led International Support Mission in Mali, or AFISMA.