US not ruling out action in Mali, working with ECOWAS
The United States is not ruling out any unilateral move against Islamic militants in northern Mali, but is supporting an African-led bid to oust the rebels, a top US official said Wednesday.
"I am obviously not gonna rule anything in or out here, but our focus in Mali is on the ECOWAS effort," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said when asked about the possibility of US unilateral action.
She reiterated US concerns about the militants spreading terror in the region, adding Washington was also talking with the government of Mali about how to contain the threat of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
"We do have growing concerns... about Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and their abuse of ungoverned space or space that's been ceded to extremists like in northern Mali, and their ability to use platforms like that for more mischief, that could endeavor to destabilize some of the fragile democracies."
In March, military putschists seized power in Mali's capital, Bamako, ousting President Amadou Toumani Toure, only to see the north and east fall to Tuareg rebels and Islamist militias linked to Al-Qaeda.
US officials have said they are investigating the possibility that AQIM was linked to last month's attack on the US consulate in the Libyan town of Benghazi, in which four Americans, including the ambassador, died.
Bamako has formally requested that the UN Security Council adopt a resolution authorizing a force led by the regional bloc ECOWAS, and preliminary discussions are to be held Thursday at the 15-nation body.
The United States has said it would support a well-planned, well-resourced African-led force for Mali.
Washington was working closely with ECOWAS "to further elaborate a robust peacekeeping plan with the new interim government of Mali that would work both on securing the capital and on pushing north," Nuland told reporters.
"That said we work across the region with our partners on counterterrorism efforts, including sharing of intelligence and local efforts to go" after militants, she added.