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UN Delays Mali Pullout Vote

FILE: A meeting in Timbuktu, Mali of people in support for MINUSMA to remain in Mali. Taken April 30, 2023.

UNITED NATIONS HQ, NEW YORK — A vote by the Security Council to end a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, at Mali's own request, was postponed to later this week due to ongoing talks, diplomatic sources said Tuesday.

Due to continuing discussions between members of the Council, the U.N. and Mali, a vote scheduled for Thursday was postponed to Friday, the last day of the current mandate of MINUSMA, according to one of the diplomatic sources.

Mali's Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop took the world by surprise on June 16 when he asked the U.N. to withdraw its MINUSMA peacekeeping force immediately.

While the consent of the host state is one of the principles of peacekeeping, a resolution drafted by France proposes providing for a period of six months for the withdrawal of the more than 12,000 soldiers and police - by year's end - deployed in the West African nation, according to diplomatic sources.

Mali had asked to shorten this six-month period, another diplomatic source told AFP.

A shorter time would make the withdrawal more difficult.

"Any effort to move thousands of peacekeepers, including all their equipment, all their facilities, all their supporting staff takes a period of time," Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary general said on Monday, asking for a "reasonable timetable".

The United States, which said it regretted the Malian decision, called for an "orderly and responsible withdrawal".

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, or MINUSMA, was created in 2013, taking over from an African-led mission as Mali was in the grip of an Islamist rebellion that continues today.

It has been criticized for its inability to protect civilians from jihadist attacks, despite deploying a sizable force and having an annual budget of $1.26 billion.

Mali has been under military rule since an August 2020 coup - and has been battling a security crisis since jihadist and separatist insurgencies broke out in the north in 2012.

The country's military rulers have increasingly imposed operational restrictions on peacekeepers and also broken Mali's longstanding alliance with former colonial power France.

Bamako has brought in mercenary Wagner Group fighters to bolster the regime.