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UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council urged African regional groups and the United Nations on Friday to present within 45 days a specific plan for military intervention in Mali to help government troops reclaim the north of the country from Islamist extremists.

The 15-nation council unanimously passed a French-drafted resolution in a bid to revive stalled attempts to deal with the crisis, which it warned could destabilise the wider, turbulent Sahel region — a belt of land spanning nearly a dozen of the world’s poorest countries on the southern rim of the Sahara.

Mali descended into chaos in March when soldiers toppled the president, leaving a power vacuum that enabled Tuareg rebels to seize two-thirds of the country. But Islamist extremists, some allied with Al Qaeda, have hijacked the revolt in the north.

In the resolution the council expressed “grave concern about the continuing deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation in the north of Mali, the increasing entrenchment of terrorist elements including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, affiliated groups and other extremist groups, and its consequences for the countries of the Sahel and beyond.”

Once a detailed plan for military intervention in Mali is received from the West African regional body ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations, the Security Council said it would be ready to consider a second resolution to approve the move.The African Union asked the Security Council in June to back military intervention, but the council first asked for a detailed operation plan. ECOWAS mapped out a three-phase operation and Mali’s interim leader, Dioncounda Traore, asked the Security Council last month to authorise the force.

But diplomats have said that plan lacked the necessary details, with some voicing serious reservations about the ability of ECOWAS to tackle the northern Islamists anytime soon.

Some envoys predict that it will be months before any kind of plan is put in motion and troops are trained and in place..—Reuters