Mali: West African leaders seek UN aid

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West African leaders Saturday sought urgent financial and logistical aid from the United Nations for a regional force in Mali to boost a French-led offensive against Islamists bearing down from the north.

A statement at the end of an emergency summit in Ivory Coast called on the United Nations “to immediately provide financial and logistical backing for the deployment of MISMA,” the African force, which is slated to comprise 5,800 soldiers.

The Economic Community of West African States regional bloc urged member nations and Chad, which have all pledged troops, to proceed with deployment “without waiting further”.

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French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who also attended the meeting, called for generous donations to fund and back efforts to resolve the Mali crisis, which threatens regional stability and poses a security risk to other countries.

The Malian army proved no match for Tuareg separatist rebels who took them by surprise when they relaunched a decades-old rebellion in January last year.

As anger rose over their defeats, a group of soldiers overthrew the government in Bamako in a disastrous March coup, which only made it easier for the Tuareg and their new Islamist allies to seize the vast arid north.