UN aims for Mali peacekeepers by July 1

An 11,000-strong UN peacekeeping force could take over military duties from France in Mali on July 1 if "major combat operations" have ended, according to a draft resolution obtained Monday.

The Security Council could vote later this month on the resolution, which says there must first be 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," according to a copy obtained by AFP.

The resolution, drawn up by France, has been circulated to all Security Council members and experts from the 15 will have their first talks on Tuesday.

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

The French army 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 their strongholds in northern Mali but the fighters are now staging guerrilla attacks.

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."

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, and the resolution provides for a maximum force of 11,200 military personnel with 1,440 police.