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UN Security Council Asks for Report on Possible Mali Peacekeepers

A top French diplomat says the United Nations Security Council will ask Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for a formal report on the feasibility of a U.N. peacekeeping operation in the West African nation of Mali.

French U.N. envoy Gerard Araud said the 15-member Council agreed Wednesday on the request for the study, and said the body is asking for the completed appraisal from Mr. Ban by the end of March.

This announcement comes as French and African forces continue pressing their battle against Islamist militants who seized control of northern Mali last year. France entered the conflict in January, as militants began moving south toward the capital, Bamako.

A U.N.-backed African intervention force, known as AFISMA, is preparing to take over ongoing military operations when French combat forces withdraw. Ambassador Araud, speaking Wednesday, did not offer a time frame for a French withdrawal.

Analysts have sought to draw a distinction between U.N. peacekeepers and regional combat forces such as AFISMA, and say a U.N. force could not participate under U.N. rules in the kind of military activity under way in Mali.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and French counterpart Laurent Fabius said Wednesday that neither France nor the United States will have a long-term presence in Mali. Fabius said the shared goal is for African and U.N. forces to step up.

Mali was plunged into crisis last year after soldiers overthrew the president, allowing Islamists to seize control of the north.

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