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France calls on UN to prepare for Mali peacekeepers


France on Wednesday called on the UN Security Council to send peacekeepers to Mali and speed up the deployment of human rights observers.

It will take "several weeks," however, before an assessment can be made on whether French troops now battling Islamist guerrillas can hand over to peacekeepers, ambassador Gerard Araud said after closed UN Security Council talks on the Mali crisis.

"France, for the first time at the Security Council, raised the perspective of the creation of a peacekeeping operation when security conditions permit it," he told reporters.

The force would support the stabilization of Mali after the end of the French-Malian offensive and "help Malians to refound their country, and that means a Malian national pact" to end longstanding rivalries between the government and ethnic Tuaregs and Arabs.

With Islamists and Malian troops both accused of reprisal killings and abuses, Araud said: "Once again we insisted on the need to deploy human rights observers in all areas liberated by Franco-Malian forces."

A peacekeeping force will need the approval of the Malian government which has expressed doubts. "We must have a dialogue with the Malian authorities," Araud said.

UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous also acknowledged objections raised by the Bamako transitional government but said a peacekeeping force is supported by the African Union, the Community of West African States and key UN members.

"I think there is clearly a shared desire of the international community to do what needs to be done in Mali," Ladsous told a press conference. He said advanced preparations had been made for the force.