BRUSSELS: European Union leaders on Friday vowed to help Mali reconquer its vast desert north from armed rebels and Islamists by backing up an international military force and training Malian defence forces.
As African and European leaders gathered in Bamako to agree a plan to retake the north, a draft EU summit statement obtained by AFP said the situation "poses an immediate threat to the Sahel region as well as to West and North Africa and to Europe."
"The EU will support Mali in its efforts to restore the rule of law and re-etablish a fully sovereign democratic government with authority throughout Malian territory," the statement said.
Friday's talks in the Malian capital come a week after the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution giving West African nations 45 days to lay out details for a military intervention.
The EU statement said the bloc "will examine support for the envisaged military force" and "speed up planning of a possible Common Security and Defence Policy military operation to help reorganise and train the Malian defence forces."
The EU would also resume development cooperation as soon as Mali's coup leaders provided evidence of moves to restore constitutional order.
"In the meantime the EU will step up its humanitarian response," the statement added.
Military putschists seized power in the capital Bamako in March, ousting President Amadou Toumani Toure, only to see the north and east fall to Tuareg rebels and militias linked to Al-Qaeda.
In Bamako last week, thousands took to the streets demanding armed intervention by a West African force to oust Islamists forcing women to wear veils and destroying ancient tombs as they impose Sharia law.