The United Nations Security Council has voted to send in an Africa-led military force to help counter al Qaeda and other Islamist militants in northern Mali.
The French-drafted resolution was backed by all 15 members of the council and authorises the deployment to begin September next year for an initial period of 12 months.
The initiative also sets up targets including the training of the battered Malian army while also pushing for presidential and legislative elections.
Mali was thrown into chaos last March by a coup that toppled the president and left a power vacuum which was exploited by rebels who seized the north.
Last November West African regional leaders agreed to deploy a force pending UN agreement, but Washington prefers countries used to desert fighting to lead the operation.
Anxiety among Mali’s neighbours has grown as al-Qaeda and transnational criminal networks have become established in the north.
France which has several citizens held hostage in the Sahara region has been pushing for action.