The U.N. Security Council, in a unanimous vote last week, called on the Economic Community of West African States to outline plans for military deployment to Mali within 45 days.
Foreign and Islamic rebels declared autonomy for northern Mali following a series of political upheavals this year. A U.N. human rights official said rebels carried out "systemic" abuses that include executions, mutilations and stoning.
Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said Washington was looking into ways to support the ECOWAS mission and political evolution in Mali.
"These are the kinds of things that we're looking at in the context of ECOWAS working through with the transitional government (on) exactly what is needed and what the rest of the international community can do to support that force," she said.
Mali's central government last month agreed to host a 3,000-troop strong military unit backed by ECOWAS. Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said Monday he was "very concerned" about the security situation in northern Mali.
Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]