France and US at odds over Mali force

Malian refugee women walk on Dec. 7, 2012 in the Goudebou refugee camp. (AFP)

Tuesday 11 December 2012

UNITED NATIONS: France circulated a UN Security Council resolution Monday that would authorize the deployment of an African-led force to oust Al-Qaeda and allied militants who have seized northern Mali, but the United States wants the troops to be trained first for desert warfare, UN diplomats said.

There is agreement in the UN’s most powerful body that there must be a two-track solution, political and military, to try to wrest control of the north — an area the size of Texas — and successfully reunite Mali.
The Security Council is united on the need for a roadmap for a political transition, the diplomats said. But it is divided on the speed of military action, with the US recommending a slower, two-stage authorization process, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the draft and proposed US amendments have not been made public.

France, backed by African nations, supports a single, resolution that would authorize the training and deployment of Malian and African troops. But the US — backed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon — wants a slower military process because it is concerned about the African soldiers’ lack of training in desert fighting, their capabilities, and equipment, the diplomats said.

Mali was plunged into turmoil in March after a coup in the capital of Bamako created a security vacuum. That allowed the secular Tuaregs, who have long felt marginalized by Mali’s government, to take half the North as a new homeland. But months later, the rebels were ousted by Islamist groups allied with Al-Qaeda. The Islamists have now imposed strict Shariah law in the north.


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