African leaders are considering a request for U.N. intervention in politically unstable Mali.
During a meeting Thursday in the Ivory Coast, Nassirou Bako, Benin's foreign minister and spokesperson for the African Union's current chairman, said that military intervention in Mali "appears more and more inevitable, but this decision cannot be unilaterally taken by ECOWAS," the regional bloc of West African states which includes Mali.
Bako said the group of African nations will draft a resolution to submit to the U.N. Security Council, requesting support for a military operation in Mali.
Mali has been destabilized by a military coup in March that ousted President Amadou Toure, as well as by an insurgency in the north among ethnic Tuareg rebels seeking an independent Islamic state.
ECOWAS imposed heavy sanctions on Mali, forcing the military junta to hand over power to a transitional government in April under former parliament speaker Dioncounda Traore, while demanding that general elections be held in one year.
Last month, Malian soldiers allowed pro-junta demonstrators to enter Traore's office in the capital Bamako, where he was beaten unconscious. Traore then traveled to Paris for medical treatment, where he currently remains.
Meanwhile, Tuareg rebels in the north, who have engaged in a separatist movement for decades, have capitalized on the political instability in the south and taken hold of several cities.
On April 6, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, the umbrella group for the Tuareg insurgency, declared the northern half of Mali -- an area larger than France, or the state of Texas -- an independent state called Azawad.
"Since the coup, we have had no functioning institution, constitution or government, so our national liberation movement has put in place an army capable of securing our land," said NMLA spokesperson Mossa Ag Attaher in an interview last month with France 24 news agency.
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