U.N. chief recommends "offensive military operation" in Mali

Wed Nov 28, 2012 10:55pm EST
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By Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday recommended that the Security Council approve an African Union peace enforcement mission be deployed to combat Islamist extremists in northern Mali, but did not offer financial support from the world body.

Diplomats and U.N. officials say that peace enforcement missions allow the use of lethal force in serious combat situations, while peacekeeping operations are intended to support and monitor an already existing ceasefire.

The last U.N.-led peace enforcement mission approved by the 15-nation Security Council was in Somalia in the early 1990s when 18 U.S. troops were killed in the "Black Hawk Down" incident, an event that led to U.S. withdrawal of combat troops from U.N.-commanded peacekeeping operations.

Ban's cautiously worded recommendation made clear that the world body is still wary of getting back into the peace-enforcement business. He said that the council should ensure that political, human rights, training and operational benchmarks be met before any military offensive commences.

As planning for the mission continues, Ban said the 15-nation council could "authorize member states of the African Union to establish AFISMA for an initial period of one year, comprising 3,300 (international) personnel to take all necessary measures to assist the Malian authorities."

AFISMA is the proposed acronym for the U.N.-mandated African force in Mali.

"Fundamental questions on how the force would be led, sustained, trained, equipped and financed remain unanswered," Ban said. "Plans for both the international force and the Malian security and defense forces need to be developed further."

One Security Council diplomat was furious at Ban's recommendation against granting the AU request for U.N. funding for the operation, which U.N. diplomats estimate will cost $300 million to $500 million.   Continued...

United Nations (U.N.) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon leaves after a joint news conference with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby following their meeting to discuss the situation in Gaza, in Cairo November 20, 2012. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih