The United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution clearing the way for the deployment of foreign troops to the troubled nation of Mali.
The unanimous resolution gives West African nations 45 days to offer details of a plan for military intervention.
Mali's interim government has requested forces to help drive out Islamist militant groups that took control of northern Mali earlier this year, after a coup in Bamako.
Friday's resolution condemns what it calls the "increasing entrenchment by terrorist elements" in northern Mali and well as the humanitarian situation there.
The resolution asks U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to provide military and security planners to help West African bloc ECOWAS and the African Union organize the proposed force. The Security Council must then approve a more detailed plan in a second resolution.
ECOWAS’s representative at Friday’s meeting, Ivory Coast Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba, welcomed the Security Council’s decision, saying inaction is no longer an option on the Malian crisis.
ECOWAS has offered to send a force of about 3,000 soldiers to stabilize Mali, rebuild the country's shattered army and help drive the militants from the north.
France has led the call for action on Mali in the Security Council and was a sponsor of the resolution. President Francois Hollande, speaking to Senegal’s National Assembly Friday, said the “horrors in northern Mali can’t be tolerated.”
Friday's resolution also renews U.N. demands that Malian militants cut ties to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and for all groups to cease human rights abuses.