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Thu, 27 Sep 2012 11:19 - Updated Thu, 27 Sep 2012 11:18

U.N. members divided over response to Mali crisis

United Nations

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United Nations - U.N. members appeared deeply divided on Wednesday as they sought to resolve the crisis in Mali, with France and some of Mali's neighbors backing possible military intervention, while the United States said the West African nation must first have an elected government.

A special U.N. session on Mali, held on the sidelines of the annual General Assembly, was intended to devise a plan for a nation that descended into chaos in March after a military coup toppled the president, leaving a power vacuum that enabled local Tuareg rebels to seize nearly two-thirds of the country.

Islamist groups have since hijacked the rebellion in the north, imposing strict Islamic law in regions under their control and spurring fears that religious extremist fighters could further destabilize the region.

Islamist groups including the al Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine have carried out public whippings of alleged adulterers and destroyed UNESCO-listed shrines of local saints in the ancient town of Timbuktu, arguing such worship was un-Islamic.