World Bulletin/News Desk
West African leaders urged Mali's politicians on Saturday to urgently form a national unity government and request U.N. backing for troops from the ECOWAS regional bloc to help in the fight against militants occupying the north.
Once seen as an example of African democracy, Mali was plunged into chaos in March after troops toppled the president, leaving a power vacuum that enabled separatist Tuareg rebels to seize nearly two-thirds of the country.
The Ansar Dine and other militant groups have since hijacked the uprising and now control Mali's desert north, which includes the regions of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu where historic and religious sites have been destroyed in recent days.
West African leaders have been trying to help Malian political leaders in the capital Bamako to set aside their differences and tackle the security problems in the north.
The presidents of Nigeria, Togo, Ivory Coast, Niger, Benin and Burkina Faso said in a statement after a meeting that Mali's interim president, Dioncounda Traore, should "promptly send a request to ECOWAS and the U.N., asking for the deployment of an ECOWAS force to support the Malian army".
African officials have said previously that Nigeria, Niger and Senegal have pledged to provide the core of a 3,270-member force whose mission would be to bolster Mali's fragmented army and stabilise political institutions, and then tackle the rebel-held north if talks failed.
Traore, recovering in Paris from a fractured skull after being attacked by a crowd in his office in May, did not attend the meeting.
"Mali's political leaders should make proposals to the interim president to form a national unity government by July 31, which would be responsible for the implementation of a roadmap out of the crisis," said the West African presidents.
They said security measures should be put in place to guarantee the safe return and protection of Traore.
"We feel that the situation of institutions in Bamako is very fragile, while that in the north of Mali is fast deteriorating," said Blaise Compaore, president of Burkina Faso and host of the meeting.
The six presidents asked the International Criminal Court to investigate possible war crimes in northern Mali.
The proposed 'integration' treaty between Russia and the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia violates international law, say co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
A man who killed three Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers was sentenced on Friday to five life sentences in prison, with no possibility of parole for 75 years
There has been no claim of responsibility and it remains unclear whether criminal or political motives were behind the attack.
Nearly all analysts have cast serious doubts on the alleged cease-fire between the government and Boko Haram, and raised posers for the government to answer
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said "the team recovered human remains from the so-called burn site" where the plane hit the ground, but provided no additional details.
China and Russia have thwarted an international attempt to create the world's largest ocean sanctuary in Antarctica
Even with five warships on permanent patrol in the waters between Sicily and North Africa -- backed up by helicopter, plane and drone surveillance -- about 3,300 migrants have died attempting the crossing this year
New Prime Minister Khaled Bahah, Yemen's ambassador to the United Nations, flew home this month to take up the post as part of the agreement aimed at stabilizing the country
Pavel Petrinko was seized along with at least one Afghan citizen and eight Turkish engineers working for a construction company after the helicopter made an emergency landing
Canada, which has not reported any cases of Ebola, is following in the footsteps of Australia, which on Tuesday became the first rich nation to issue such a ban
U.S.-led air strikes hit ISIL positions around Kobani earlier in the day in an apparent effort to pave the way for the heavily-armed Kurdish contingent to enter
Kerry's talks in Muscat, Oman with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the EU's Catherine Ashton are due to take place two weeks before a Nov. 24 deadline
Washington Post reported that investigators had all but concluded there was not a sufficiently strong case to prove officer Darren Wilson violated the rights of 18-year-old Michael Brown when he killed him
The "sheer number and size and scope" of the flights also could pose a potential risk to civil aviation, he told a Pentagon press briefing.
While she may travel freely in public, the judge decided that Hickox must continue direct monitoring of her health, coordinate travel plans with health officials and report any symptoms