African Union appeals for UN funding for Mali force

* 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

Beech)

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