United Nations: The UN Security Council called on Wednesday for an end to hostilities in northern Mali and a return to constitutional rule two weeks after a coup, French diplomats said.
   
Diplomats said a statement adopted by the 15-member council also expressed alarm at the presence of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in the strife-torn African nation.
   
France called an emergency meeting of the 15-nation council to consider the statement condemning the coup against President Amadou Toumani Toure and the advance of Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants in towns in the northern part of the country.
   
The meeting came as world leaders scrambled to stop Mali's descent into chaos two weeks after a coup in Bamako touched off a sequence which saw Tuareg rebels backed by radical Islamists conquer half the country.
   
The statement was to be read by US ambassador Susan Rice, whose country heads the Security Council in April. Diplomats said the statement calls on the coup leader to ensure the safety and security of all Malian officials and demands the immediate release of those detained.
   
The council also renewed its call for the immediate restoration of constitutional rule and the democratically elected government in Mali. The Security Council condemned the continued attacks, looting and seizure of territory by rebel groups in the north of Mali and "demands an immediate cessation of hostilities."

(Agencies)