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France seeks UN backing to fight jihadists in West Africa

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France on Tuesday asked the UN Security Council to authorize the deployment of a five-nation African military force to fight jihadists in the Sahel region.


A draft resolution circulated to the 15-member council would give the Sahel force a UN mandate to "use all necessary means" to "combat terrorism, drug trafficking and trafficking in persons," according to the text obtained by AFP.

Draft resolution

The Security Council could vote on the draft resolution as early as next week, diplomats said.

Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger -- which make up the G5 -- agreed in March to set up the special counter-terrorism operation of 5,000 troops for the Sahel region [West Africa].

The force will have its headquarters in Mali, but will be under a separate command from the UN peacekeeping force MINUSMA, which has been deployed in the country since 2013.

French Ambassador Francois Delattre said he expected the council to back the measure, drafted under chapter 7 of the UN charter, which provides for the use of force.

"We cannot afford to let the Sahel region become a new safe haven for terrorists from across the region," he told reporters.

The draft resolution would authorize the deployment of the force of up to 5,000 military, police and civilian personnel for an initial period of 12 months.

The force will operate in border areas and work to "create a secure environment by eradicating the actions of the terrorist armed groups and other organized criminal groups," the draft said.

UN logistical, financial support

France carried out a military intervention in Mali in 2013 to drive out jihadist groups, some of which were linked to Al-Qaeda, which had seized key cities in the country's north.

Although the Islamists have been largely ousted from the north, jihadist groups continue to mount attacks on civilians and UN forces in violence that has engulfed parts of central Mali.