Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has reacted cautiously to a call from French President Francois Hollande for military intervention in Mali.
That West African country has been in political disarray since March, when a military coup pushed the last president from power.
Then in early April, the main Tuareg separatist group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), declared independence in the north.
But it was pushed out by armed groups Ansar Dine and a local branch of al-Qaeda. They began destroying religious shrines and arresting women for not wearing the veil.
And just three days ago, the West African regional bloc ECOWAS agreed on a deployment of troops to help Mali's government reclaim the north, however, there are still no boots on the ground.
Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra reports.