BRUSSELS, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- With an international focus on rebel control in north Mali, countless civilians are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, the European government said.
World leaders are discussing steps necessary to restore security and territorial integrity to Mali. Islamic rebels, some of whom are aligned with al-Qaida, took control of northern Mali early this year.
The European Commission proposed $25.8 million in humanitarian aid for Mali, which, if approved, would make aid for the year total $130 million.
Kristalina Georgieva, the European commissioner for humanitarian aid, said assistance so far has averted a major humanitarian disaster.
"While all eyes have been on the conflict in the north of Mali it is essential that we bring the focus back on the humanitarian crisis faced by its people," she said in a statement. "Millions of Malians are in dire need of urgent aid and relieving their suffering must be our No. 1 priority."
The Economic Community of West African States had proposed a neutral military force for Mali. A U.N. official last week, however, said military force should be used as a last resort.