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West African bloc agrees on deploying 3,300 troops in Mali


13:01, November 12, 2012

ABUJA, Nov. 11 (Xinhua) -- West African nations agreed on Sunday to deploy 3,300 troops to help recapture northern Mali, which was seized by Islamist extremists more than six months ago, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said.

The agreement, part of battle plans that will be sent for United Nations approval by the end of this month, was reached at an extraordinary summit of the bloc in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.

"We foresee 3,300 soldiers for a timeframe of one year," ECOWAS Chairman Alassane Ouattara, who is also president of Cote d'Ivorie, told reporters after the summit.

He said the troops would mostly come from Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso, adding that other West African nations and some non-African countries may also contribute to the forces.

"We have countries that are offering battalions, others companies," Ouattara said.

The soldiers could be deployed as soon as the United Nations approves the military plan, drawn up by experts from Africa, the world body and Europe in the Malian capital of Bamako last week.

Ouattara said he hoped the approval could come in late November or early December, so that the troops could be put in place days afterward.

Mali has been dealing with diverse security, economic, political and humanitarian challenges since January after a fighting between government forces and al-Qaida-linked rebels broke out in the northern part of the country.

The United Nations recently asked the African Union and ECOWAS to produce a detailed plan for a possible military intervention in northern Mali.

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