ALGIERS - The UN special envoy for the Sahel on Thursday met Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for talks on the situation in Mali, as the world body pushes for a resolution to the crisis there.
Romano Prodi, an Italian former premier and ex-president of the European Commission, had a "detailed" discussion on Mali with Bouteflika, the APS news agency said without giving further details.
The meeting comes as West African heads of state prepared to meet on Sunday in Abuja to adopt a plan for their troops to recapture northern Mali from radical Islamists, the grouping said in a statement on Thursday.
Algeria, with its superior military capabilities and its 1,400-kilometre (875-mile) border with Mali, is seen as key to any military operation but has been hesitant to get involved, preferring a negotiated solution.
Facing a potentially violent ouster, Ansar Dine, the main Islamist group in Mali which has links to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has called for dialogue and a halt to hostilities.
Negotiations with Ansar Dine, which has occupied key cities such as Timbuktu for seven months, are under way in Burkina Faso and have been joined by a delegation fresh from talks in the Algerian capital.
In October, the UN Security Council approved a resolution urging the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to speed up preparations for a military intervention to help recapture northern Mali.
It gave ECOWAS until November 26 to clarify its plans.