Threat of Malian spillover troubles Russia

Feb. 22, 2013 at 12:19 PM
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MOSCOW, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Russia said more effort was needed from the international community to ensure the conflict in Mali doesn't engulf the greater Sahel region of Africa.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met Friday with U.N. special envoy to the Sahel region Romano Prodi to discuss the multilateral military intervention in Mali.

Mali in January asked for military assistance from France, the former colonial power, to help stop foreign and al-Qaida fighters. Control over northern Mali was lost to militants following a coup in early 2012.

French forces fought militants in of Gao this week. The BBC reported Friday that French forces pushed rebels out of key buildings in the city.

Lavrov said he was concerned that conflict might spill over the border to engulf Mali's northern neighbors as multinational forces press further north.

"It was agreed that a lack of control over the spread of weapons in the region after the Libya conflict has created the basis for an escalation in tensions throughout the Sahel region," a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry was cited by RIA Novosti as reading.

Human Rights Watch this week expressed concern that Malian forces may seek revenge against some ethnic communities viewed as sympathetic to northern rebels.

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