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Mali Preparing Military Action to Take Control of North, PM Says

Mali is “thoroughly preparing” military action to take back control of the rebel-held north, said Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra.

The West African nation has asked “friendly countries” to help with restructuring its armed forces including training ground troops and replacing the chain of command, he said in a speech on Bamako-based state television yesterday.

“We will never abandon our compatriots in the north,” Diarra said. “What’s happening over there is a matter of national, West African, and even global concern.”

Islamist rebels seeking to impose Sharia law are currently in control of northern Mali after clashing with ethnic Touareg insurgents of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad. The Touaregs declared independence in April after using a power vacuum following a March coup in Bamako to seize the north.

Diarra said he was looking forward to proposals from the Economic Community of West African States, which has sent a technical team to Bamako to prepare an African-led military intervention force. Diarra didn’t say which country should lead the military operation.

Ecowas has urged Mali to form a national unity government before the end of the month amid disagreement between political and religious groups over the country’s current leadership.

A unity government will be appointed soon, Diarra said, without giving a date. Interim President Dioncounda Traore remains in France after being assaulted by protesters on May 21.

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