ABUJA, Nigeria, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- The Nigerian president said deployment of African forces into Mali was likely if diplomacy fails to end a crisis simmering since early this year.
A delegation from Burkina Faso met in July with rebel leaders in northern Mali to find a solution to the crisis. U.N. officials, however, said there was no meaningful dialogue between the central government and insurgent groups in the north.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said members of the Economic Community of West African States would send forces into Mali, provided it had U.N. support, if negotiations fail.
"Diplomacy and negotiation (are) first," he was quoted by the BBC as saying. "Military intervention is extreme."
Malian leaders last weekend formed a unity government that pledged to tackle the situation in the north of the country. An April coup unseated the civilian government in Bamako in part because of frustration with instability in north Mali.
ECOWAS, in a statement, said it was monitoring the situation now that a new government was in place. The bloc called on authorities to "address the daunting challenges ahead, including the stabilization of the transition, the reestablishment of the unity and territorial integrity of Mali, and the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections within the period of the transition."