ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- International effort is needed to prevent groups like al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb from using Mali as a staging ground, a U.S. diplomat said from Abu Dhabi.
The United Arab Emirates this week hosted a global counter-terrorism forum to address regional security threats. William Burns, deputy U.S. secretary of state, said there have been "critical" steps taken in preventing terrorist organizations from gaining a foothold in the region.
"But serious threats remain," he said. "For some time, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has launched attacks and kidnappings from northern Mali into neighboring countries."
International leaders are discussing the best way forward to tackle political and security issues that developed in Mali early this year. AQIM, along with foreign rebel groups, have claimed authority over northern Mali.
Cheick Modibo Diarra resigned as prime minister this week after he was arrested by soldiers who supported a coup early this year. CNN reported that former civil servant Diango Cissoko was named interim prime minister.
Burns said regional efforts to thwart al-Qaida's development in Mali and the rest of the region was "extraordinarily complex."
"Progress is often measured over years rather than months," he said. "But we can't let that deter us from acting now."
African leaders have advocated force in Mali, though detractors say that should be a last resort.