Clinton this week met with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algiers before heading to the Balkans.
A senior U.S. State Department official who spoke with reporters on background said "virtually the entire meeting" focused on a possible military intervention in Mali, led by the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States.
"The secretary underscored in the context of that that it's very clear that a political process and our counter-terrorism efforts in Mali need to work in parallel and be mutually reinforcing," the official added.
In recommending new sanctions against "individuals and groups found to be obstructing the political transition in Mali," ECOWAS last month said a regional troop deployment was seen as a last resort.
This month, however, the U.N. Security Council, in a unanimous vote, called on ECOWAS to outline its plans for military deployment to Mali within 45 days.
Foreign and Islamic rebels declared autonomy for northern Mali following a series of political upheavals early this year. A U.N. human rights official said northern rebels had carried out "systemic" abuses that include executions, mutilations and stoning.