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UN approves peacekeepers for Mali

UNITED NATIONS — The Security Council unanimously approved a new UN peacekeeping force for Mali on Thursday to help restore democracy and stabilize the northern half of the country, which was controlled by Islamist jihadists until a French-led military operation ousted them three months ago.

The resolution authorizes the deployment of a UN force comprising 11,200 military personnel and 1,440 international police with a mandate to help restore peace, especially in northern cities. The UN peacekeepers are not authorized to undertake offensive military operations or chase terrorists in the desert, roles that will continue to be carried out by France under an agreement with Mali.

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The UN peacekeepers would take over from a 6,000-member African-led mission now in Mali on July 1, although the deployment date is subject to change if security conditions deteriorate.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius welcomed the resolution.

Mali fell into turmoil after a March 2012 coup created a security vacuum that allowed secular Tuareg rebels to take over half of the country’s north as a new homeland. Months later, the rebels were kicked out by Islamic jihadists who imposed strict Sharia law.

When the Islamists started moving into government areas in the south, France launched a military offensive on Jan. 11 to oust them. The fighters, many linked to Al Qaeda, fled the major towns in the north but many went into hiding in the desert.

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