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UN special envoy says military action avoidable in Islamist-held northern Mali

The U.N.'s Secretary General's special envoy to the Sahel region of Africa says he believes military intervention is avoidable in Mali where al-Qaida-linked Islamist rebels have taken control of the northern part of the country.

Former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said Tuesday he believed there was still room for diplomatic maneuvering ahead of any possible military action to dislodge the Islamists. He placed a priority on humanitarian aid and development saying, "without them there will be no solution on the Mali problem."

The 15-nation Economic Community of Western African States on Sunday agreed to send 3,300 soldiers to retake control of northern Mali, occupied since April. The African Union on Tuesday endorsed the military intervention in Mali.