Paris - The UN special envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi, is urging Mali's government to start election preparations immediately, he was cited as saying in an interview to be published by daily newspaper La Croix on Wednesday.
"As of now, the Malian government must start technical preparations to organise the elections, especially when it comes to voter registrations. It's an enormous amount of work that must be started if you want to hold credible elections when the security situation permits," the former European Commission president said.
"With the help of the international community, through the UN, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States [Ecowas] and the European Union, the Malian government has to take the initiative," Prodi said.
"As soon as stability is established in the country's main cities it will be necessary to resume negotiations immediately, because peace in Mali is made through political stabilisation."
In the interview, he also touched on the subjects of humanitarian aid to refugees and the creation of an intervention fund for the Sahel, which will help finance development projects in all the countries in the region.
"All of Europe has an interest in not having an African Afghanistan," he said, noting also that "European countries can support France with bilateral aid."
On 11 January, France launched a military intervention to help Mali oust Islamists controlling the northern parts of the country.
Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore on Tuesday said he hopes to organise elections by 31 July.