Economic Community of West African States members have considered a neutral military force to send to Mali to support the central government in Bamako. ECOWAS spokesman Sonny Ugoh told CNN the bloc had formalized a proposal for 3,300 troops for operations in Mali.
"ECOWAS has adopted the concept of operation for a military force," he said. "This will now be presented to the African Union Peace and Security Council, and from there, to the United Nations Security Council."
An agreement reached by regional leaders expresses support for political dialogue but said military force "may be indispensable."
U.S. officials last month, in meetings in Algeria, stressed that a political process may need to work in parallel with military efforts in Mali.
Ansar Dine, one of the Islamic rebel movements that claimed autonomy for north Mali, told al-Arabiya last week it was ready "to take part in the democratic process."
The militant group, along with members of al-Qaida, is suspected of serious crimes in north Mali following political disputes that resulted in a de facto division of the country.