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U.N. Security Council signs off on 12,600 peacekeepers for Mali

By CNN Staff
April 26, 2013 -- Updated 0120 GMT (0920 HKT)
A convoy of French army vehicles head toward Gao, Mali on February 7.
A convoy of French army vehicles head toward Gao, Mali on February 7.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A U.N. Security Council calls for peacekeepers to takeover in July
  • The force will including 6,000 troops from Chad and other West African nations
  • "We know it's going to be a fairly volatile environment," a U.N. official says

(CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council signed off Thursday on a 12,600-member peacekeeping force in Mali that will be authorized "to use all necessary means" to protect civilians and cultural artifacts.

"We know it's going to be a fairly volatile environment," Herve Ladsous, the U.N. undersecretary for peacekeeping operations, said.

The resolution was proposed by France, which deployed about 4,000 troops to Mali in January to drive out Islamist militants who attempted to take control of the country.

The peacekeeping force -- known as the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali -- will take over July 1 and include some 6,000 troops from Chad and other West African nations already providing security in the country, according to the resolution adopted by the Security Council.

Mali's refugee crisis worsening

"This is not an enforcement mission. This is not an anti-terrorist operation," Ladsous said.

Rather, he said, the mission will help Malian authorities restore constitutional order and governance. Elections there are set for July.

Islamic extremists with links to al Qaeda carved out a large portion of northern Mali last year, taking advantage of a chaotic situation after a military coup in March 2012.

France took military action this year after the militants began to push into the southern portion of the country.

The militants banned music, smoking, drinking and watching sports on television, and destroyed historic tombs and shrines in the region. World leaders feared that militants would turn the area into a terrorist haven.

The Security Council resolution provides for a peacekeeping force for 12 months.

CNN's Pierre Meilhan contributed to this report.

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