First Published: 2012-11-13

 

West Africa army await UN Mali go-ahead

 

Senior official says ECOWAS military force’s intervention against Islamic radicals in Mali will be done in phases, pending UN approval.

 

Middle East Online

By Cecile Feuillatre - PARIS, France

Ouedraogo (L) said the full force would not necessarily be deployed at once

A West African military force assembled to intervene against Islamic radicals in Mali is ready to be deployed as soon as the United Nations issues a green light, a senior official at the centre of the preparations claimed Tuesday.

"The military force is fully ready. Once the UN gives the go-ahead, deployment can start immediately," Kadre Desire Ouedraogo told journalists here.

Ouedraogo, a former prime minister of Burkina Faso, is the president of the commission, or permanent secretariat, of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

His comments contradicted the scepticism expressed by some military experts on the readiness of ECOWAS to send in a force capable of sweeping Islamists out of northern Mali, a vast desert area that has fallen under the control of Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

ECOWAS leaders meeting in Nigeria agreed on Sunday to deploy a force of up to 3,300 men. A detailed plan of action, backed by the African Union, is due to be presented to the UN by the end of the month and Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara has said deployment could come as soon as early December.

Ouedraogo said the full force would not necessarily be deployed at once.

"That will not be a classical war, there will be special operations and it will be done in phases," he explained.

The African force being assembled will have logistical support from France and the United States, who have been lobbying hard to get ECOWAS to take action and to ensure Algeria does not stand in their way.

"We have requested air support and all our partners have promised their support," Ouedraogo said.

Doubts about whether the mooted intervention will go ahead have been fuelled by the ambiguous stance adopted by Algeria, the biggest military power in the region.

Algiers reacted to Sunday's ECOWAS declaration by saying that it believed negotiations with the rebel groups in northern Mali -- who are mostly led by Algerian nationals -- could still deliver a settlement.

Ouedraogo said Algeria had indicated it would not stand in the way of military intervention and, in that case, would close its border with Mali, which measures around 1,700km (1,100 miles), in order to try and deny militants an escape route.

The ECOWAS official appeared sceptical about the chances of a negotiated settlement.

"Any political dialogue will be with groups who recognise the unity of Mali and the secular character of the state," he said. "There will be no discussions with terrorist or mafia groups."

The Islamists in northern Mali have imposed a strict version of sharia law in the areas under their control, which has led to cases of unmarried couples being stoned, thieves having hands amputated and suspected drinkers being whipped.

 

US criticises Shiite name of Iraqi military operation

Libya PM survives assassination attempt

Syrian refugees ignored at Turkey poll campaign

Israel warplanes strike Gaza after rocket attack

Arrest of several FIFA leaders as part of twin corruption inquiry

Coalition raids target headquarters of rebel troops in Yemen capital

Tunisia begins hearings into ex-regime's rights abuses

‘Islamic State’ executes 20 men in ruins of Syria ancient city

Saudi Arabia announces sanctions against two Hezbollah leaders

Libya to fight aggression with 'strength'

Iraq operation to liberate Anbar faces barrage of criticism

Iran says nuclear talks could go beyond deadline

Hamas accused of committing war crimes against civilians

German court rejects Yemenis' case over US drone killings

Kuwait emir urges Muslim states to fight extremism

NY Times journalist has Turkish citizenship revoked

Military site inspections necessary to Iran deal

Iraqi forces on outskirts of Ramadi

Director 'shocked' at Morocco’s prostitution film ban

Pro-government fighters retake Yemen city from Shiite rebels

Libya militias trap civilians in Benghazi

EU border agency plans to expand migrant rescue operation

Syria state TV blames ‘foreign enemies’ for signal jamming

Palestinians and jihadists clash in Yarmouk

Iraq refugees forced back into conflict zones

Kuwait restores Islamist lawmaker's citizenship

Washington Post reporter goes on trial behind closed doors in Iran

Iraq launches operation to drive ‘Islamic State’ from Anbar

New airport in restive eastern Turkey

Iran ‘thwarts’ US cyber attack on Oil Ministry’

Egypt opens border crossing with Gaza for 48 hours

Litany of problems keep Iraqi army weak and ineffective

Rouhani: most Iranians favour peace

Iran Foreign Minister discusses Yemen conflict in neutral Oman

Palestinians dismiss Netanyahu initiative

Three Moroccans jailed for homosexuality

Oxfam: 16 million Yemenis have no access to clean water

US, Iraq at loggerheads over Ramadi

Soldier kills comrades in Tunisia barracks shooting

Netanyahu names rightist ally as new Foreign Ministry chief

Iraq rejects US criticism of security forces over defeat in Ramadi

Hezbollah captures hilltops from Qaeda wing in Syria

Saudi Shiites hold mass funeral for victims of mosque bombing

Sudan targets newspapers in major media crackdown

Iran looks forward to total lifting of sanctions