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UN aims for Mali peacekeepers by July 1

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

An 11,000-strong UN peacekeeping force will take over military duties from France in Mali on July 1 if the UN Security Council rules the conflict has eased enough, according to a draft resolution obtained Monday.

The 15-member Security Council could vote this month on the resolution that would allow French forces to intervene if UN peacekeepers are under "serious threat."

The Security Council would have to decide that there has been a "cessation of major combat operations by international military forces" and "a significant reduction in the capacity of terrorist forces to pose a major threat" before the UN takes launches its mission.

French troops entered Mali in January after the government appealed for help to halt an advance by Islamist fighters on the capital.

French and Chadian forces drove the militants out of cities in northern Mali but now face a guerrilla campaign.

The French government has said it will keep at least 1,000 troops in Mali and the resolution authorizes France "to use all necessary means" to intervene when the UN troops are "under imminent and serious threat."

UN peacekeepers are not allowed to carry out the counter-terrorist operations that the French forces are expected to continue.

A west African force gathering in Mali will form the core of the proposed UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, to be known by its French acronym MINUSMA.

There are more than 8,000 African troops in Mali, though Chadian forces have started a withdrawal, and the resolution provides for a maximum force of 11,200 military personnel with 1,440 police.

MINUSMA will have an initial mandate of 12 months. It will help to retrain Malian security forces and bring order back to towns under government control again. It will also play a key role in political efforts to rebuild the enfeebled Malian state.

The UN will have to help overcome deep mistrust between the Bamako government and Tuareg and Arab minorities. The international community is also concerned about the lingering influence of the Mali coup leaders over the transitional government.

The army launched a coup in March, 2012 which unleashed the chaos that allowed Tuareg rebels and their erstwhile Islamist allies to take over the northern third of the country and impose a brutal Islamic rule.

The draft resolution "demands" that no Malian army member "undermine and obstruct" the international efforts to rebuild the state and warns of possible "appropriate measures" against those who threaten stability.

The resolution also "calls for tangible achievements" in the political efforts.

Mali's transitional authorities have vowed to hold presidential and legislative elections before the end of July. There are widespread doubts among UN officials and diplomats that this target will be met however.

The first closed-door talks among experts from the 15 council members are to be held on Tuesday. The draft has already been agreed among the permanent members -- France, Britain, the United States, Russia and China -- diplomats said.

"France wants to have a vote before the end of the month and that seems to be on target," a UN diplomat said.

tw/jm

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130415/un-aims-mali-peacekeepers-july-1