* AU says predictable support needed for Mali mission
* Mali says becoming "a breeding ground for terrorism"
* France drafting U.N. resolution to approve intervention
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 5 (Reuters) - The African Union appealed
on Wednesday for U.N. funding for a military operation to combat
Islamist extremists in northern Mali after U.N. chief Ban
Ki-moon cautiously recommended the Security Council approve the
force without U.N. financing.
Mali descended into chaos in March when soldiers toppled the
president, leaving a power vacuum that enabled Tuareg rebels to
seize two-thirds of the country. But Islamist extremists, some
allied with al Qaeda, have hijacked the revolt.
The AU observer to the United Nations, Antonio Tete, told
the 15-member Security Council that the deployment and
operations of an African force of 3,300 troops would need "a
U.N. support package funded through assessed contributions to
ensure sustained and predictable support to the mission."
"Experience in the Darfur region of Sudan, with AMIS, and,
currently, in Somalia, with AMISOM, has clearly shown the
limitations of, and constraints linked to, support provided on a
voluntary basis," Tete said.
AMIS was the African Union's force in Sudan before it became
a joint U.N.-AU force, which was renamed UNAMID, while in
Somalia an AU peacekeeping force is known as AMISOM.
Diplomats said the African Union and France - the most vocal
Western backer of a plan for African troops to retake northern
Mali - were angry that Ban had not offered U.N. funding. Seven
French nationals are being held hostage in the desert region.
The fall of Mali's north to the Islamists, including AQIM,
al Qaeda's North African wing, has carved out a safe haven for
militants and international organized crime, U.N. officials say,
stirring fears of attacks in West Africa and in Europe.
"The terrorists have stepped up their activities and are
seeking reinforcements to carry out a jihad from Mali," Mali's
minister for Malians abroad and African integration, Traore
Rokiatou Guikine, told the Security Council. "Mali is on the way
to becoming a breeding ground for terrorism."
French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said he was expecting a
report from the United Nations on what support it could provide
for a Mali mission. "There is no reason why we shouldn't have
logistical support provided by the U.N.," Araud said, adding
that any assistance would have to be endorsed by the council.
LIMITED U.N. ABILITY
In a report to the Security Council, Ban suggested funding
for the initial combat operation could be through "voluntary or
bilateral contributions," which diplomats said meant the
European Union would be asked to pay.
U.N. Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey
Feltman told the council on Wednesday that the African Union and
Malian forces would need "a significant amount of support by
international partners including general and specialized
equipment, logistics and funding."
"The United Nations has limited ability to deliver a support
package in the near term to a combat force," he said. "Once
their objectives have been achieved, the council could consider
the option of the United Nations providing a logistics package
for stabilization operations undertaken by the force."
"Consideration could also be given to the deployment of a
peacekeeping operation following the completion of combat
operations," Feltman said.
He said Ban shared the "profound sense of urgency" to deal
with the Mali crisis but there were still questions about how
the African Union and Malian forces would be led, sustained,
trained, equipped and financed.
Feltman added that Ban's caution over the operation was not
intended to delay action but ensure a successful intervention.
U.N. diplomats said France was drafting a resolution to
approve the intervention force for Security Council adoption
later this month.
But, in light of Ban's cautious report, diplomats said
negotiations were likely to center on whether the entire
operation should be mandated in one resolution or whether
approval should be split into two phases.
"We need one resolution, I don't think we need two
resolutions," Araud said.
Mali's government and the two rebel groups that took control
of the northern half of the country in April met for the first
time on Tuesday and agreed to negotiate an end to the crisis, a
minister from mediator Burkina Faso said.
(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Eric