The United Nations Security Council has adopted a resolution paving the way for foreign military intervention in Mali to retake the north from insurgents.
The resolution requests a detailed plan for such an operation from organisations such as the African Union and Ecowas, the West African regional group, within 45 days.
Insurgents and Tuareg rebels took control of the north after President Amadou Toumani Toure was overthrown in March by soldiers in the capital Bamako.
The BBC reports that both the government and Ecowas have made requests for authorisation for an international force to intervene.
A second resolution by the Security Council would be required to authorise any action in Mali.