Russia says it's ready to discuss U.N. force for Mali
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia, which holds the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council this month, said on Wednesday it was ready to discuss a U.N. peacekeeping force for Mali, where an African-led military mission is now operating.
U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon said last week talks should be held as soon as possible on deploying a United Nations peacekeeping force in Mali, where French-led forces are pursuing Islamist rebels ousted from cities in the north.
France said a month ago it wanted an African-led military mission in Mali to be replaced with a United Nations peacekeeping mandate by April.
"We are ready for discussion in the U.N. Security Council of the issue of putting the peacekeeping mission in Mali under the aegis of the United Nations," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told journalists at a weekly briefing.
Lukashevich suggested a decision could come near the end of March, when Russia holds a Security Council discussion on Mali that would include discussion of "giving the operation in that country a U.N. component".
He did not say exactly how the proposed peacekeeping force might relate to the U.N.-backed African military force (AFISMA), which already has 3,800 troops on the ground in Mali.
A permanent Security Council member with veto power, Russia has blocked resolutions on Syrian conflict and opposed any military intervention there, but in December backed a French-drafted resolution that authorized the African-led Mali force.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman; editing by Andrew Roche)
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