ABUJA, Nigeria (Agence France-Presse) -- West African leaders at an emergency summit meeting on Sunday agreed on a 3,300-strong force of soldiers to wrest control of northern Mali from Islamist extremists, as fears grew over the risks they posed to the region and beyond.
The meeting here in the Nigerian capital was aimed at setting out a blueprint for the use of military force in Mali's north. Leaders from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States stressed that diplomacy remained the preferred route to resolving the crisis, but said that force might be necessary, given the extremist threat.
"We foresee 3,300 soldiers for a time frame of one year," Ivory Coast's president, Alassane Ouattara, the current chairman of the group, said after the meeting.
The troops would come primarily from the 15-nation bloc, but also possibly from outside countries as well, he said.
Mr. Ouattara said he hoped approval by the United Nations Security Council would come in late November or early December.
The countries that he said would be sending troops were Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo. From outside of the bloc, he said, "Chad could also participate."
"We have had contacts with other countries -- Mauritania, South Africa," he said.world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.