UN security council considers Mali troop deployment
The UN Security Council may vote on a resolution allowing the deployment of an African force in Mali to prepare an offensive against Al-Qaeda linked militants, diplomats say.
France was expected to send a new version of its resolution on Mali late Wednesday to the other 14 members of the council.
It has been involved in weeks of talks with the United States on Mali. US diplomats expressed doubts that a proposed West African force will be tough enough for the desert battle against fighters from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its offshoot the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).
The Islamists and separatist rebels seized on a military coup in Mali in March to take over the northern half of the country.
France and the United States have sought to minimize their differences in recent days and diplomats said there could be a vote Thursday on a resolution could see the international force authorized in two stages.
The draft would call for Mali's government to fully restore constitutional order and start talks with Tuareg separatist rebels in the north, diplomats said.
The resolution would allow international help to rebuild the Mali military and train a force to reconquer the north of the country, a UN diplomat said.
But the UN Security Council would first have to be "satisfied" that the force is ready for an operation before it could be sent into battle.
Military planners and diplomats have said no offensive in northern Mali would be ready until late 2013.
The financing of the operation also remains vague. Diplomats expect the European Union to pay for the initial training and the resolution would call on UN leader Ban Ki-moon to propose options to back a logistics package for the force.
The military operation is expected to cost at least $200 million a year, according to diplomats.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says it has 3,300 troops from member countries ready to go to Mali. European countries and the United States, who fear Mali becoming a terrorist safe haven, have offered logistical support and training.