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.
Protests taking place across globe as US turnout rivals Trump inauguration crowd
With women's empowerment a key factor in shaping the future, thousands of women and men in Washington are joining hands in solidarity with sister marches around the world to promote rights for women
Defense minister sends welcome message to Turkish President ahead of his official Africa tour
An EU summit in December called for increasing support to the Libyan coast guard, which the EU began training and equipping last October.
A group of Israeli settlers were rescued by the mayor of a Palestinian village in the northern West Bank
Published moments after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, a statement on the White House website said that the US will develop a "state-of-the-art missile defense system" to defend against attacks from Iran, North Korea and others.
The meeting aims to discuss the six-year conflict in Libya, which fell into turmoil since 2011
Two men and two women were rescued alive in the the early hours of Saturday.
Earlier this month the prime minister reshuffled his cabinet to align better with the incoming US administration.
Billed as a "counter-summit", organisers of the European Nationalists have said the parties would use the event in the historic Rhine river city of Koblenz to set out their joint "vision for a Europe of freedom".
Foreign Ministry statement says Gambian people showed 'prudent stance' during political crisis
Shuwail had served as Libya’s interior minister from October 2012 to May 2013
Trump also will focus on removing hurdles to domestic energy development that he argues will make the US independent of foreign oil.
The UN Security Council last year extended the mandate of UNAMID until the end of June 2017 over fierce opposition from the government in Khartoum.
Tzipi Livni was expected in Brussels on 23 January for a conference at the European Parliament, but pulled out citing illness however was not too ill to speak to the New York branch of the Israel lobby group the Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday.
Trump has vowed to build a wall on the border with Mexico to keep out undocumented immigrants and to revise trade deals to protect US jobs.