Members of the Economic Community of West African States petitioned the U.N. Security Council for a Chapter VII resolution that would authorize use of force in Mali.
The country's civilian leadership was toppled by a military coup this year. Rebels, some of whom are affiliated with al-Qaida, have since declared autonomy for northern Mali.
The International Crisis Group, in a report, said what was once a model of democracy in the region is on the "brink of sheer dissolution."
ICG said the prospects for finding a negotiated solution to the security crisis in Mali are slowly slipping away as militant Islamists tighten their grip in the country's north. Protected historic sites in the country were razed by northern militants because they didn't conform to their strict brand of Islam.
Nevertheless, the anti-conflict group said advocates of military intervention into Mali don't understand complexity of the situation.
"Such an intervention would turn Mali into a new front of the war on terror at the expense of longstanding political demands in the north and rule out any chance of peaceful coexistence between the different communities," the group stated.