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Thursday, April 24, 2014  

UN, AU military planners prepare for war in Mali
BAMAKO Military experts from Africa, the United Nations and Europe have drafted plans to recapture northern Mali, officials said late on Tuesday, as one faction of the Islamists, who occupy the territory called for talks.  

A source with knowledge of the plan said the plan would involve a force of more than 4,000 personnel, mostly from West African countries.  

“Every military option will be used - ground and air,” the source said.

International military experts drew up the plan at a week-long meeting in Bamako and submitted it to the West African regional bloc Ecowas for approval.   

The blueprint will be reviewed by the UN Security Council in mid-November, setting the stage for action.  

 “We need to respond in detail to the Security Council on the logistics, timing, size and funding for the deployment of this mission,” Desire Ouedraogo, president of the Ecowas Commission, told military planners at the meeting’s closing ceremony.  

 “So your conclusions will be crucial in the next step, of getting the United Nations Security Council to adopt a new resolution authorising deployment.”  

The source present at the planning meetings said a military headquarters for the mission would be set up in Koulikoro, about 60km from Bamako.  

Separately, West African army chiefs have adopted a military plan to expel extremists from northern Mali, the country’s army chief Ibrahim Dembele said.

“We are very satisfied,” Dembele said late on Tuesday at the close of a meeting of the military brass in Bamako.

“On the whole, the strategy was adopted (and) friendly troops will come here to help Mali reconquer the north.”

“It is an ambitious plan, we should expect a little over 4,000 people in case of military intervention. We have studied all the parameters, now we await instructions from our heads of state,” said an officer from Benin who attended the meeting.

“I really hope things will advance. We must not release pressure on the terrorist groups, everyone must be convinced,” Guinean General Sekouba Konate, who is in charge of the standby force, said.

The meeting came as Ansar Dine, one of the groups occupying the north, urged dialogue to solve the crisis and called for a halt to all hostilities, during talks in Burkina Faso.  US-based risk consultancy Stratfor said an intervention would likely drive Al Qaeda-linked fighters out of their strongholds - Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal - and into the mountain ranges of Mali and Niger where their influence could be contained.      

Ansar Dine told regional mediator Blaise Compaore it was ready to open talks with the government of Mali to end the conflict.  

Ansar Dine has also sent delegates for talks with regional power Algeria in an apparent effort to head off an intervention.  

Agencies
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