The United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution that calls for sanctions against rebel fighters in northern Mali.

Thursday's call does not include a provision for a UN mandate to deploy a proposed African force in the conflict-stricken West African nation, but did not rule it out in the future.

Resolution 2056, which called on UN states to submit names of individuals and groups linked to al-Qaeda, "notably in
the north of Mali",  was passed unanimously by the 15-nation body.

The French-drafted resolution said the council "expresses its readiness to further examine the request of ECOWAS once additional information has been provided regarding the objectives, means and modalities of the envisaged deployment".

Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, welcomed Thursday's resolution. "The international community must do everything it can to fight terrorism in Mali and the Sahel, which is threatening to destabilise the whole region," he said.

The resolution also warned that the desecration of Muslim shrines in the northern city of Timbuktu, blamed on fighters from the group Ansar Dine, could lead to charges of  war crimes in the International Criminal Court.

In the capital, Bamako, 2,000 people joined a sit-in protest at the Independence Square monument, calling for army intervention in the north, where fighters have enforced strict sharia law, destroyed ancient shrines and trapped residents with landmines.

West African force

West African nations have been pressing for UN backing for a proposed intervention force they want to send to Mali, where a military coup on March 22 was followed by a breakthrough by fighters in the north.

The Security Council called on West African states to provide more information about the objectives and means of the proposed force before it could act.

The resolution noted the request by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union for the UN to mandate a force.

The council said it was ready to "further examine the request of ECOWAS once additional information has been provided regarding the objectives, means and modalities of the envisaged deployment".

African diplomats said details on the force would be provided within days.

Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, the ECOWAS president, told the Security Council his group had decided to "speed up the deployment of the ECOWAS stand-by force in Mali".

He said that ECOWAS also would press ahead with mediation efforts.

If those efforts fail, Ouedraogo said, ECOWAS would eventually help Mali's army "restore the territorial integrity of the country".

Source: Agencies