UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council will consider plans to deploy a new U.N. peacekeeping force to Mali to help pacify the northern part of the West African country following France's ejection of hard-line Islamists from the cities there, a senior diplomat said Thursday.
The Security Council last month passed a resolution approving a multinational African force to help stabilize Mali. But with the Islamist forces in retreat, that plan has been overtaken by events on the ground.
Instead, the Security Council will discuss a regular U.N. peacekeeping force for Mali instead, the senior Western diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the plans were in an early phase of discussion.
The force would probably be composed of 3,000 to 5,000 peacekeepers, the diplomat said.
A U.N. peacekeeping force would be a positive development, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday on France-Inter radio.
"The evolution announced by the U.N. would be a very positive evolution, and I want this initiative to be carried out," he said. "France will play its role, of course."
French troops might still be needed to stay on for a while as a rapid-reaction strike force, with more aggressive duties in comparison to the pacification program assigned to the U.N. peacekeepers, the diplomat said.
The United States, Britain and France favor the U.N. peacekeeping force approach. The change in plans would require a new Security Council resolution.
Associated Press writer Elaine Ganley contributed to this story from Paris.