Abuja - West African nations on Friday plotted a military force to retake Islamist-occupied northern Mali as ministers met on a strategy that included a possible expanded mission of 5 500 troops.
The proposal discussed by foreign and defence ministers from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) could see the bloc commit 3 200 troops and other countries a further 2 300, said a source familiar with the talks.
Representatives from South Africa, Mauritania, Morocco, Libya, Algeria and Chad would also be invited to participate in a regional summit on the military strategy set for Sunday in the Nigerian capital Abuja, the source said.
"Ecowas defence chiefs have proposed a change in the composition of the troops to be deployed," the source from the bloc said on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorised to provide details.
"They are recommending to the summit 5 500 troops as against the initial proposition of 3 200 by Ecowas. The difference is expected to be contributed by non-Ecowas states which have signified interest to contribute troops."
The ministers' meeting ended late on Friday after adopting a report ahead of Sunday's summit. A portion of the report seen by an AFP journalist stressed that talks were the preferred means to resolve the crisis, but warned "dialogue was not open-ended".
The leader of a Malian militia meanwhile said that local people were ready to rise up against the Islamists.