(front R -L) Mali's Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra, Burkina Faso's Minister of Foreign Affairs Djibril Bassole and Algeria's Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci stand at attention in Bamako
Regional leaders and international organizations met in Mali's capital Bamako on Friday to seek a response to the occupation of the north of the country by al Qaeda-linked Islamists, but failed to resolve differences on how to tackle the growing security threat, reports Reuters.
Mali remains paralyzed by twin crises, with the leadership in Bamako still divided since a March coup that toppled the president and the rebel takeover of the north of the country.
Regional and international efforts to deal with the situation, which has created a safe haven for Islamists and international criminal gangs, have been hampered by divisions over how to help.
"The main challenge today is how to deal with the dangerous situation in the north of the country expeditiously," the African Union's new chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma told the meeting.
"This is a threat we cannot afford to take lightly, and...the danger it poses extends far beyond the African continent. The sooner we deal with it, the better."
In a document adopted during the talks involving Mali's west and north African neighbors, the African Union, the United Nations and the European Union, delegates called for sanctions against terrorist networks and Malian rebels who refuse to break ties to them and join talks.
The African Union and United Nations also announced plans to open permanent offices in Bamako.
But scant measurable headway was made towards harmonizing the positions of those calling for military action and others who prefer to give talks a chance.
With six hostages held by the Islamists and fearful of an attack on home soil, former colonial power France is eager for military action. Some West African leaders who worry that Mali's conflict will spill over into their own largely fragile states also favor military action.
The United Nations Security Council last week gave African leaders 45 days to draw up a plan for military intervention to retake control of the north.
However diplomats say any such intervention is months away and there is still no agreement over whether an election should be held to replace Mali's caretaker government before a military operation takes place.
Mali's Foreign Minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly repeated the position of interim President Dioncounda Traore on Friday.