15 Jan 2013

UN supports French military intervention in Mali

7:47 pm on 15 January 2013

All members of the United Nations Security Council have backed France's military intervention in Mali to fight Islamist rebels, according to officials.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he hoped the intervention would help restore "Mali's constitutional order and territorial integrity".

Thousands of African troops are due to join Malian and French forces to help push back the rebels' offensive, the BBC reports.

France intervened on Friday after the Islamists began advancing southwards. French authorities said they had feared that the rebels would march on the capital, Bamako, creating a grave security threat for the wider region.

On Monday, the Security Council convened in New York for an emergency meeting at France's request.

Following the meeting, France's UN ambassador Gerard Araud said his country had the "understanding and support" of the 14 other council members, but added that France also wanted the deployment of a West African force to happen "as quickly as possible".

The force will be deployed under UN Security Council resolution 2085, passed in December 2012, and allows for a 3000-strong African-led mission to intervene in Mali later this year in the absence of any negotiated solution.

African troops are expected in Mali in "coming days and weeks", Mr Araud said, adding that the Nigerian commander of the force was already on the ground.

Mr Ban echoed Mr Araud's call for rapid deployment of an African force.

Fighting intensifies

Islamist rebels have launched a counter-offensive in Mali after four days of air strikes by French warplanes on their strongholds in the north.

France intensified its air raids on Monday, pummelling training camps at the heart of the vast desert area seized by rebels in April last year.

Launching a counter-attack to the southwest of recent fighting, Islamists dislodged government forces from the town of Diabaly, some 350km from Bamako.

French and Malian troops attempting to retake the town were battling Islamists, residents told Reuters.

Reports from the strategic town of Gao said more than 60 militants have been killed in air strikes.