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Balance needed as international assistance to Mali ramps up: top UN official

02-09-2013 07:23 BJT

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- International efforts to help Mali emerge from its current crisis must be carefully balanced so that adequate security assistance is provided but, at the same time, Malians remain in charge and engaged in making progress on the political front, a high-ranking UN official said here Friday.

"The right balance will have to be struck between providing the help needed and not overwhelming Malians with our presence," UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told a press conference here, his first press briefing at the UN Headquarters in New York City since he assumed his current post in July 2012. The press conference followed his recent participation in a conference held on Mali in Brussels and his return from a range of meetings on the African continent.

Northern Mali has been occupied by radical Islamists after fighting broke out in January 2012 between government forces and Tuareg rebels. The conflict uprooted hundreds of thousands of people and prompted the Malian government to request assistance from France to stop the military advance of extremist groups.

At the news briefing held Friday, Feltman stressed the need for the UN and other international partners to engage national and regional actors in all efforts.

"The long-term goal is a democratic Mali where their forces are in charge of security," said Feltman, who stressed the importance of keeping a strong emphasis on the political track in Mali, which suffered a military coup early last year when the insurgency in the north was gaining strength.

He reckoned some parties in Mali might lose sight of the need for internal change after the military intervention.

According to Feltman, there must be implementation of the Roadmap for the political transition, recently established by Mali 's parliament, advocating dialogue at all levels.

Holding elections were important in that context, but it was even more important that elections that are held are seen as credible, so as not to increase instability, and it was ultimately up to the Malians themselves to decide when polls would be held, he stressed.

Asked about a possible UN peacekeeping operation to take over from an African-led force already authorized by the Security Council, known as AFISMA, Feltman said the decision was up to the Council, but that had become more likely because of the swift French operation, which had dislodged Islamist militias from Timbuktu and other important northern cities.

"At this point the peacekeeping operation is going to come sooner rather than later," he said, emphasizing that discussions over such an operation were focused on filling the gap between the end of the current military engagement and the point when full security could be handed over to the Malians themselves.



Editor:James |Source: Xinhua

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