First Published: 2012-11-09

 

West African ministers meet on Mali military plan

 

foreign and defence ministers discuss military blueprint aimed at returning Islamist-occupied northern Mali to government control.

 

Middle East Online

Attempts at dialogue remain ongoing to resolve the crisis

ABUJA - West African foreign and defence ministers met in Nigeria's capital on Friday to set out a military blueprint aimed at returning Islamist-occupied northern Mali to government control.

The ministers from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States were to forward the plan, formulated by experts and regional military chiefs, to a summit of the bloc's leaders on Sunday which is also being held in Abuja.

It would eventually be transferred for approval at the UN Security Council, which on October 12 set a 45-day timeframe for a blueprint to be submitted.

The plan would be handed over to the United Nations through the African Union's Peace and Security Council, ECOWAS Commission President Kadre Desire Ouedraogo said at the opening of Friday's meeting.

At the same time, attempts at dialogue remain ongoing to resolve the crisis, which analysts have warned poses potential problems to other countries in West Africa at risk to violence from Islamist extremists.

"The urgent need to halt the mafia and criminal practices of terrorist groups and the atrocities committed with impunity by the extremists requires a strong mobilisation on behalf of Mali," Ouedraogo said.

He said the bloc should pursue a dual approach of dialogue and military pressure.

Facing a potentially violent ouster, one of the extremist groups, Ansar Dine, which has occupied key cities such as Timbuktu for seven months, has called for dialogue.

On Thursday, the UN special envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi, the former Italian prime minister and ex-president of the European Commission, said every effort would be made to avoid military intervention.

Prodi made the comments after meeting Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Mali. Algeria is seen as important to any military operation, but it has been hesitant to get involved, preferring a negotiated solution.

While not a member of ECOWAS, it is seen as key due to its superior military capabilities, intelligence services and experience battling Islamist extremism. Algeria also shares a 1,400-kilometre (875-mile) border with Mali.

The ECOWAS military strategy being presented to the ministers on Friday was drawn up with the help of experts from the European Union, African Union, UN and the region, and adopted by regional army chiefs this week.

The details of the plan have not been made public, but army sources say over 4,000 troops could be sent into Mali.

The French defence ministry said foreign and defence ministers from five European countries -- Germany, Poland, Spain, Italy and France -- will meet on November 15 to discuss a European mission aimed at training Malian troops.

The mission could include 200 soldiers and begin in January, an aide to French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

Mali, once one of the region's most stable democracies, rapidly imploded after a coup in March allowed Tuareg desert nomads, who had relaunched a decades-old rebellion for independence, to seize the main towns in the north with the help of Islamist allies.

The secular separatists were quickly sidelined by the Islamists, who had little interest in their aspirations for an independent homeland and set about implementing their version of strict sharia law.

 

10 killed in Toronto “deliberate” van attack

Yemen Huthi political leader killed in coalition raid

Rouhani warns Trump against betraying nuclear deal

Saudi king to launch 'entertainment city'

Iraq’s ex-football stars from sports to politics

Syria's Idlib 'big new challenge' for international community

UNRWA chief says Palestinian aid $200 million short since Trump cuts

Bad memories resurface at Raqa’s mass grave

Turkey newspaper chief slams journalist terror trial

Setback for Yemen rebels after strike takes out leader

Saudi issues Islamic sukuk sale to finance deficit

Yarmuk, an epicentre of Syria's bloody conflict

Egypt’s Eurobond succeeds but risks remain

Egypt former anti-corruption chief gets five years jail

Philippines apologises to Kuwait over 'maid rescues'

Iran urges EU not to pay Trump ‘ransom’ over nuclear deal

UAE to finance project to rebuild Mosul's Grand al-Nuri Mosque

EU, UN begin major conference for Syria aid

New tensions rise between old rivals Turkey and Greece

Nine people killed in Toronto van attack

Syria security chief refuses Lebanon court appearance

Air raid kills dozens at Yemen wedding

Algeria draws Europe’s ire by cutting imports, boosting trade with China

Russia says no decision yet on delivery of S-300 missiles to Syria

French MPs adopt controversial immigration bill

Qatar Airways ‘robust’ despite large losses

IS threatens to attack Iraqi polling station

Jordan sounds the alarm over rising online crimes

Yemen forces clash with jihadists in Taez

Paris attacks suspect gets 20 years over Brussels shootout

Jailed Egyptian photographer wins UN press freedom prize

14 Saddam-era officials still jailed in Iraq

Gaza death toll rises to 40 as Palestinian dies of wounds

HRW says African migrants face rape, torture in Yemen

Four British pilgrims killed in Saudi road crash

HRW warns Egypt fight against IS threatens humanitarian crisis

Iran, Israel trade blame for surge in hostilities over Syria

Iran vows to resume enrichment if US quits nuclear deal

UAE accuses Qatari jets of ‘chasing’ passenger flight

Israel rubbishes claims Mossad behind Malaysia assassination

Syrian refugees are not going home anytime soon

Resumption of direct flights from Moscow brings hope to Egypt’s tourism sector

Saudi finalises drone regulation after security alarm

Will Lebanon have more women MPs after May 6 poll?

Saudi shoots down ‘toy drone’