France 'confident' UN will back west African force in Mali

By AFP
By AFP

7/3/2012 3:30:02 PM -

PARIS (AFP) - France said Tuesday it was confident that the United Nations Security Council would soon pass a resolution authorising a west African force to fight rebels holding northern Mali.

"We are confident it will be adopted," said Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc says it has 3,300 troops ready to enter Mali, where Tuareg rebels and their Islamist allies have wrested control of the vast desert north.

"This will allow our African friends to take a series of decisions, with international backing of course," Fabius told reporters after west African leaders urged the council to fast-track the resolution for regional military intervention.

Guinean President Alpha Conde told AFP on Tuesday that only a government of national unity would have the legitimacy to request African military intervention.

Conde said there "was no question of going to war" against the Tuareg rebel group the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad but that "we must fight all the other terrorist forces".

He said if MNLA fighters wanted to support the regional force, then they would "of course" be welcomed.

A March coup in Mali eased the way for Tuareg separatist rebels to seize an area in the north larger than France that they consider their homeland.

However, the previously unknown hardline Islamist group Ansar Dine seized the upper hand while fighting on their flanks. Openly allied with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the militants have since pushed the Tuareg rebels from all positions of power.