Regional bloc recommends regional force for Mali

West Africa's regional bloc is recommending the deployment of a regional force to Mali after rebels declared an independent state following a military coup last month.

Regional bloc ECOWAS said Friday the force would help Mali secure its territory and serve as peacekeepers.

ECOWAS says the regional force will be deployed if mediation talks fail.

Longtime President Amadou Toumani Toure was near the end of his last term when soldiers on March 21 stormed the presidency, sending Toure into hiding and overturning a democratic tradition stretching back more than two decades. Soldiers claimed they grabbed power because Toure had mishandled the Tuareg rebellion that began in northern Mali in January. Rebels took advantage of the vacuum to seize three large northern cities.