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African leaders meet in Ethiopia amid Mali crisis

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January 27, 2013 05:02 AM EST | AP


ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — African leaders are meeting in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for talks expected to be dominated by the conflict in Mali as well as lingering territorial issues between the two Sudans.

The African Union says it will deploy a force in Mali, where French troops are helping the Malian army to push back Islamist extremists whose rebellion threatens to divide the West African nation.

The Peace and Security Council of the African Union said in a statement Saturday that it wanted "the early operationalization of the African Standby Force" in Mali. The council also said it fully supports Mali President Dioncounda Traore but urged him to put in place a roadmap to free and fair elections. It also said the African Union is committed to preserving the unity of Mali.