The new African Union Commission chairperson has arrived in Mali before an international meeting aimed at ending the country's political and military crisis.
AU, U.N. and ECOWAS representatives are to discuss ways of restoring democracy in Mali and how to deal with Islamist militants in the country's north at a meeting Friday in Bamako.
AU Commission Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma says the situation in Mali is, in her words, "a crisis that goes beyond the region" and has a potential of spreading to the whole of West Africa if it is not managed.
The delegates are expected to discuss the timeframe for a proposed military intervention by ECOWAS, the West Africa regional group.
Last week, the U.N. Security Council called for the AU and ECOWAS to submit plans for the intervention within 45 days.
The Council would need to hold a second vote to decide whether to approve the operation or call for further revisions.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Malians took to the streets of Bamako to protest plans for foreign military intervention.
Mali was plunged into chaos by a March 22 coup that overthrew the government of Amadou Toumani Toure.
A series of Islamist groups including al-Qaida's north Africa branch then seized control the country's desert north, and now control about two-thirds of Mali's national territory.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.