U.N. threatens sanctions for violations of Mali ceasefire

A fighter with the Tuareg separatist group MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) brandishes a separatist flag for the region they call Azawad outside the local regional assembly, where members of the rebel group met with the Malian army, the U.N. mission in Mali and French army officers, in Kidal June 23, 2013. REUTERS/Adama Diarra

By Michelle Nichols UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council on Monday threatened to blacklist anyone who hinders a peace deal in Mali reached by an alliance of Tuareg-led rebels and the government, and authorized the deployment of 40 military ceasefire monitors. The rebels and the Malian government earlier in June signed the agreement, which is meant to allow the authorities to focus on tackling Islamist militants in the desert north. The Security Council expressed "its readiness to consider targeted sanctions against those who take actions to obstruct or threaten the implementation of the agreement, those who resume hostilities and violate the ceasefire, as well as those who attack and take action sanctions to threaten (peacekeepers)." U.N. peacekeepers have been deployed across northern Mali to try to stabilize the vast region, which was occupied by separatist Tuareg rebels and al Qaeda-linked Islamists in 2012 before a French intervention in 2013. Tit-for-tat violence between rival armed groups has until now distracted Mali from fighting Islamist militants. In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member Security Council renewed the mandate for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, for another year. The operation has some 11,500 troops and police on the ground. The U.N. force commander, Danish Major General Michael Lollesgaard, told the council this month that his troops were not equipped to fight a guerrilla war that has killed dozens of peacekeepers, making it the deadliest U.N. mission. The council called on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to enhance the safety, security and basic services for MINUSMA including "through enhancing MINUSMA's intelligence capacities, providing training and equipment to counter explosive devices." France has vowed to strengthen cooperation with the U.N. mission in Mali. The U.N. envoy to Mali, Mongi Hamdi, has also met with delegations from Britain, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands about support the peacekeeping mission needs.