by William M. Reilly
UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- France, with its own forces already turning back jihadists in Mali, for the first time on Wednesday proposed the UN Security Council consider forming a peacekeeping mission for the West Africa nation.
But, the point has repeatedly been made that it will not be an overnight transition.
"As for the French forces, they will not stay," the permanent representative of France to the United Nations, Ambassador Gerard Araud, told reporters here. "We will not stay."
French forces began arriving in Mali on Jan. 11 about a year after the Tuareg rebels struck in the north of the vast nation. Last month jihadists moved in and began sweeping south capturing famed Timbuktu and heading for the capital of Bamako, nudging aside the Tuaregs who have since disavowed the militant Islamists.
But the Paris envoy pointedly told reporters outside the Security Council chambers the time was not yet ripe for a peacekeeping operation.
"We are not yet deploying a peacekeeping operation," he said. " There is a prospect of a peacekeeping operation. It was the first time that I raised the issue at the Security Council and I insisted on the fact that the deployment will be possible only when the security circumstances permit."
"I think that we will have to wait several weeks before assessing the security environment and taking the decision of deploying a peacekeeping operation," the French envoy said.
French President Francois Hollande pledged on Feb. 2 on a one- day visit to Mali to withdraw his nation's troops from the country only after sovereignty over the Sahel state's territory has been restored and an international force takes over from the French forces.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was asked in Paris on Wednesday if it was possible for the French operation to be replaced by a UN peacekeeping force by April and replied, "Yes," adding, "Our experts and partners are aiming for that."
Back in New York, Araud spelled out the scenario Paris envisions.
"You have now the French forces and the African forces of AFISMA (French-led International Support Mission)," the French ambassador said. "The AFISMA is not under (UN) blue helmets. So, what we will have, and it is not the first time that it happens at the UN -- it happened for instance in Cote d'Ivoire, is that we will have to have a transition from the French and AFISMA to a UN peacekeeping operation."
"It will be easier because most of the contingents of the peacekeeping operation will be the African contingents, under blue helmets," Araud said.
Coincidentally, and as the ambassador spoke to reporters outside the council, across the UN headquarters complex from the council chambers, UN Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous began briefing reporters.
First he reminded journalists that at an international conclave on Mali in Brussels on Tuesday there seemed to be a "well-shared desire" to see the Mali rescue operation transformed into a peacekeeping operation.
At that session, his UN political counterpart, Undersecretary- General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman met with representatives of the African Union (AU) and the Economic community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Feltman said then, "The success of our support to the Malian people will depend on the effective combination of our political and security efforts."
So, at his briefing, Ladsous said, "It is clear that this will require of course an invitation by the government of Mali. But already, I note that the African Union as well as ECOWAS and a number of member states of the United Nations have expressed themselves in that direction."
"It is also clear that the peacekeeping operation in Mali cannot develop itself in any sort of circumstances -- to keep the peace there has to be some peace," he added. "This will be evaluated including also in light of security considerations. But I think there is clearly a shared desire of the international community to do what needs to be done in Mali."
He recalled that only in December "the assumption was that first the stakeholders would deal with the restoration of the constitutional order in the country and only at a later stage take up the restoration of the integrity of the country. Events in the course of January .. have in a way inverted that logic, but there will be certainly the need both to stabilize the country and also to restore the normal order of things: the rule of law, the security issue. So this again, let me say, will be considered by the council but we are already working on the different possible scenarios."
France wants Mali UN force in place by April
PARIS, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- France wants a United Nations peacekeeping force to be in place in Mali by April, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday.
"Once the security will assured, we can envisage without changing the structures that it can be placed under the framework of UN peacekeeping operations," the French top diplomat said.Full story
UN looking for broader access to north Mali
GENEVA, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- A United Nations humanitarian official said Wednesday that UN and its humanitarian partners have had access back into central Mali and are looking for broader access throughout north Mali.
David Gressly, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator of Sahel with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told reporters that some 500,000 people in northern Mali that are food insecure need the assistance.Full story
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PARIS, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- Visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Monday said France and the United States have agreed on the need to hand over Mali military operations to a United Nations mission when it is "prudent."
"We agreed on the need to as quickly as reasonably possible establish the African-led international mission in Mali and as quickly as is prudent transition that mission to the United Nations," he said after talks with French President Francois Hollande on issues concerning Mali, Syria and Iran.Full story