Military planners prepare for war in Mali

Tue Nov 6, 2012 4:07pm EST
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By Tiemoko Diallo

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Military experts from Africa, the United Nations and Europe have drafted plans to recapture northern Mali, officials said on Tuesday, as one faction of the Islamist rebels 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, asking not to be named.

The crisis in Mali has become a security concern for Western governments worried its vast desert could turn into a training ground for al Qaeda-linked militants.

Once an example of African democracy, Mali fell into chaos after a coup in March in the capital Bamako that toppled the president, leaving a power vacuum exploited by rebels for their takeover of the north.

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

The blueprint will be reviewed by the U.N. 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.   Continued...