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Mali needs other options if diplomacy fails: Rabat

RABAT: Morocco supports a political solution to the crisis in Mali but the regional community will have to consider "other options" if diplomacy fails, the foreign minister said in a newspaper interview.

The kingdom is encouraging its allies in the UN Security Council to find a political solution to the crisis in northern Mali, Youssef El Amrani told Le Matin in comments to be published on Tuesday.

But implementing any such solution will face "several difficulties," he said.

The minister said there was "an urgent need to act, to prevent the Sahel-Saharan region from becoming a safe haven for terrorists and a refuge for criminal networks."

"The exhaustion of all diplomatic means will force ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) and the Security Council to consider other options," the minister was quoted as saying in the French-language daily.

Hardline Islamists who occupied Mali's vast north in the chaos following a coup in Bamako in March have tightened control over the area, imposing a strict form of Islamic law.

Among those now in power in the north are the Islamist group Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

The Moroccan foreign minister said "the strategic, humanitarian and political nightmare of a 'Somalisation' of Mali" haunts the Maghreb and West Africa as much as Europe."

And he argued that those benefiting from the turmoil in the region were strengthened by "the absence of a proper regional strategy."

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Saturday that France would back an African military intervention in northern Mali, a strategy that he described as "desirable and inevitable."

ECOWAS wants to send a 3,000-strong military force to Mali, but is waiting for United Nations approval and a formal request from Bamako.

Amrani said that during his recent visit to Paris, where he met his French counterpart Laurent Fabius, he had noted "the strong convergence of views between Paris and Rabat especially on regional and international issues."

 

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