International officials are finalizing plans for deploying troops and sending military support to Mali to help it retake the north of the country from al-Qaida-linked militants who seized control in April.
Representatives from the United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), European Union and other partner countries are meeting Tuesday and Wednesday in Bamako to finalize operational plans for the African-led military intervention.
After months of wrangling over details, international powers and Malian authorities appear to be reaching the same page.
Aboudou Chaka Toure, ECOWAS Commission's representative to Mali, says this week's meeting is about "deepening and reinforcing" that consensus.
"Every day that goes by without action gives criminal and terrorist groups in northern Mali time to strengthen their disruptive abilities and further ingrain themselves into the social fabric of the region," he said, emphasizing the urgency of moving against "these mafia-like networks of drug traffickers and jihadists that threaten regional and global security."
Mali has been in chaos since a March 22 military coup toppled the elected government and paved the way for armed groups to seize the north.
More than 300,000 people have fled northern Mali this year, many of them into neighboring countries. Rights groups say those who remained are being subjected to serious human rights violations as Islamist militants impose a harsh version of Islamic law.
ECOWAS continues to encourage armed groups in the region to break ties with al-Qaida and come to the negotiating table, all while preparing for war.
The international community has supported the carrot-and-stick approach. World leaders say they will not allow northern Mali to become a haven for terrorists.
ECOWAS and the African Union have until mid-November to present a more detailed operational plan for the intervention to the U.N. Security Council.
While some say regional troops could deploy to Bamako within weeks of getting that U.N. intervention mandate, analysts say the mission could more likely kick off early next year.
Article by Anne Look, VOA News