Reporter: How serious is what’s happening in Mali now?
Ambassador Rice: It looks very serious, and there was a great deal of expression of concern about the deteriorating situation, discussion also of the letter from the president of Mali that requested external support, particularly from the French. We have a press statement that the president of the Council will read shortly.
Reporter: What can the Security Council do?
Ambassador Rice: The Security Council can encourage swift implementation of 2085. They can keep the heat on and the pressure on for a credible political process and for ECOWAS and the AU to grip their role. They can support and encourage the Malian government’s sovereign request for assistance from friends and partners in the region and beyond. Obviously, it’s up to those external players to decide what they wish to do, but I think there was clear-cut consensus about the gravity of the situation and the right of the Malian authorities to seek what assistance they can receive.
Reporter: As developments are unfolding today and the seizure of this new town, is this having some in the Council wonder whether, you know, that this sort of indicates that the Council’s moving too slowly on this?
Ambassador Rice: No. I don’t think that was the perception. I mean, there may be—we’ve all been encouraging ECOWAS—frankly since the Council trip to West Africa last spring—to present a viable plan as soon as possible, and even today the plan to our minds still requires refinement. But the point is not that. The point is that we’ve got extremists who have very worrying if not nefarious ambitions that need to be thwarted and whether—the best would have been if the Malian army had the capacity and the will to do so back last spring and even still today. And one of the things we discussed is the extent to which the Malians are ready and willing to defend their own country.
Reporter: Did the President ask for help this week?
Ambassador Rice: There was a letter that was just sent from the president of Mali to the Secretary-General—the copies of which were provided to the Council—which requested support.
Reporter: Is there a sense of next steps?
Ambassador Rice: As I said, the President of the Council is going to read a press statement shortly. I think we all will follow this very closely, and there’s, I think, a probability that we may need to come back together to discuss this in the coming days.
Reporter: Did the president of Mali request specific kinds of military support? Troops?
Ambassador Rice: It wasn’t specific, but it basically said, “help, France.”
Reporter: Has the United States decided what help it’s going to give to the international force? Finance?
Ambassador Rice: We’re looking at providing financial support, absolutely.
Reporter: To ECOWAS? Or to?
Ambassador Rice: To those who would be in AFISMA.
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