Abidjan - African leaders on Thursday called for the UN backing for military intervention in northern Mali, currently controlled by feuding armed groups.
Participants at a meeting of officials from the African Union, the western African grouping Ecowas and the United Nations agreed on the need for the AU to make "a formal request" for the UN backing for intervention to re-establish Mali's territorial integrity, according to the meeting's final document.
The meeting in Abidjan "recognised the need to mobilise the appropriate means, including military", to help the Malian state to restructure its army and restore its authority over the north of the country as soon as possible as well as to "combat terrorist groups".
Tuareg and Islamists rebels have seized control in the north but disagreements over the creation of a breakaway state persist, particularly over the implementation of Islamic law.
The rival groups, who seized the main cities in northern Mali after a 22 March coup in the southern capital Bamako, hold separate ideologies and objectives and the relationship has been an uneasy one.
The UN, AU and Ecowas officials also called for the immediate dissolution of the ex-junta which came to power following the March coup by low-ranking officers, and for it to take no further part in the country's transition.
The putschists have officially ceded power to interim authorities but remain omnipresent.
Mali's transitional leaders have stressed their wish to restore the country's territorial integrity but seem unable to guarantee their own safety, let alone mount a credible challenge against the north's new masters.
Those meeting in the Ivory Coast capital also called on the Mali army to work exclusively "towards the preservation and defence of the unity and territorial integrity of Mali," and only under the authority of the interim president and government.
The UN, African Union and Ecowas officials in Abidjan stressed that they would provide financial and logistical support for the efforts at stabilising the country.