February 12, 2013 - 19:20 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The government of Mali has not given a green light yet for a UN peacekeeping operation in the troubled west African nation, the UN's deputy chief has said, according to Belfast Telegraph.
Deputy secretary-general Jan Eliasson said that there appears to be growing agreement - including from the African Union and west African nations - for a UN force, but "there is still hesitation from the government of Mali".
Last week, France asked the Security Council to consider establishing a UN peacekeeping operation in Mali, a move that reinforced its plan to send French troops home as soon as military operations end. It said a force would only be deployed when security conditions permit, and with approval of Mali's government.
Mali was plunged into turmoil after a coup in March 2012 created a security vacuum. That allowed secular rebel Tuaregs, who have long felt marginalised by Mali's government, to take half the north as a new homeland. But months later, the rebels were kicked out by the Islamists who imposed strict Shariah law in the north, including amputations for theft.
France launched a military operation on January 11 against the Islamist extremists after they suddenly started moving south into government-controlled areas and captured key towns.
French forces, backed by African troops, have routed the Islamists from key towns in the north, but the jihadists staged a dramatic assault on the town of Gao on Sunday. Though unsuccessful, the attack by the Islamists as well as suicide bombings and roadside bombs highlight the challenges ahead for the troops already on the ground, and a potential UN force.