PARIS (Reuters) - West African leaders are poised to submit a new request for military invention in Mali to the U.N. Security Council, and boots could be on the ground within weeks, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara told French weekly Journal du Dimanche.
“A new request to the U.N. Security Council will be shortly submitted in the name of the Economic Community of West African States that I preside over,” Ouattara said in the interview to be published in Sunday’s edition.
“If the situation does not change for the better, yes, there will be military intervention in Mali,” he said, adding that it could happen within “weeks and not months”.
Al-Qaeda-linked rebel forces have taken over the northern zones of the West African nation once seen as a model of democracy in the otherwise turbulent region.
The country is still reeling from a March coup in the capital that has rocked its institutions. Its interim president returned on Friday after weeks convalescing abroad following an attack by a mob.
The envisioned African force would be made up of soldiers from Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and possibly Chad and other countries, Ouattara said.
The West African bloc (ECOWAS) is looking to France and the United States to provide logistical support, he said, citing equipment as well as advisors.
“The fact that France assumes in August the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council is very good news because we are totally in sync with the French authorities,” he added.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius - who has similarly cited the probable use of military force in Mali - is in Africa this weekend to discuss solutions to the crisis.
President Francois Hollande has said it is up to Africans to decide how to restore stability to the region, but that France would support those efforts to intervene.
Earlier this month, the U.N. Security Council endorsed political efforts by West African leaders to end the unrest in Mali, but stopped short of backing force.
It said it was ready to examine the ECOWAS request once additional detail was provided on the proposed intervention.
According to ECOWAS planners, African forces would first restore stability in the capital of Bamako. After that, regional militaries will help revamp Mali’s defeated military and look at helping it retake the north, however details remain sketchy.