The United Nations Security Council has authorized the deployment of foreign troops to Mali, with the goal of retaking the country's north from Islamist militant groups.
Council members voted unanimously Thursday to approve the deployment of international troops under African leadership in that troubled land.
Mali's Foreign Minister Tieman Coulibaly called the decision a historic step that will help restore power to Mali's legitimate government.
The resolution does not specify the size of the force, but the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, has been making plans to send between 3,000 and 4,000 troops to Mali.
The resolution says the force will help rebuild the Malian army, support Malian authorities in recovering the north, and create a safe environment for delivery of humanitarian aid.
Al-Qaida-linked militant groups seized control of the north in April, soon after renegade soldiers toppled Mali's elected president.
The militants have imposed a harsh form of Islamic law, enforced in part through public executions, amputations and floggings of alleged criminals.
The U.N. resolution does not give a date when military operations will begin. It says the military planning will "need to be further refined before the commencement of the offensive operation."
It calls on member states to contribute troops and funding to the force, which will be known as the African-led International Support Mission in Mali, or AFISMA.