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.


Iran nuclear deal with six world powers gets parliament approval

Libya rival factions reject UN-proposed peace deal

Al-Nusra Front urges jihadists in Caucasus to target Russia

Wave of violence escalates in Jerusalem

Britain abandons Saudi penal system bid

Jerusalem suffers bloodiest day in wave of rising unrest

Ankara attacks raise Kurdish party's with Erdogan

German anti-Islam protesters demand Merkel resign

Palestinians accuse Israel of seeking ‘third intifada’

'Political coup' in Iraq Kurdistan as Barzani clings to power

Yemen PM meets President amid reports of growing differences

Libya factions reject UN-proposed unity government

Algeria orders closure of private TV over 'subversive' interview

Under Russia air cover, Syria regime fights ‘fiercest clashes’ with rebels

EU asks Russia to ‘cease’ air strikes on moderate rebels in Syria

Russian air force hit 53 targets in Syria in last 24 hours

Egypt court orders release of Mubarak sons

Iraq probing reports IS chief injured in air strike

Kurdish militia, Arab rebels join forces in Syria

Saudi to triple umrah visas

Britain urged to accept more Syrian refugees

Thousands vent their anger against Erdogan

Putin meets Saudi Defence Minister on Syria

Barzani’s party asks opposition members to leave Arbil

Lessons from second intifada: Palestinian leaders seek to keep lid on clashes

Iran issues verdict on Washington Post correspondent

Iran lawmakers give partial nod to nuclear deal

Russia rules out Syria ground operation

Iran ‘successfully’ tests new long-range missile

Is Russia using cluster bombs in Syria?

Iraq air force ‘hits’ convoy of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Iran holds funeral for senior commander killed in Syria

Pregnant woman, two-year-old child die in Israel deadly strike on Gaza

Ankara bombings exacerbate climate of mistrust in Turkey

Thousands take to streets to demand departure of Barzani

Qaeda in Yemen executes four on suspicion of sorcery

Egypt agrees to buy two Mistral warships from France

Israel struggles to contain spreading unrest as death toll rises

'Terrorist' attack kills at least 86 people in Ankara

PKK Kurdish rebels declare ‘state of inactivity’

Bashir twists knife in Sudan wound as flawed dialogue kicks off

Syria Assad forces advance with Russia air support

Jordan parliament accuses Israel of 'state terrorism'

World leaders urge Libya rivals to sign long-awaited peace deal

Nobel Peace Prize boosts pluralistic democracy in Tunisia