(Reuters) – U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon cautiously recommended on Wednesday that the Security Council approve the deployment of an African Union “offensive military operation” to combat Islamist extremists in northern Mali, but did not offer funding from the world body.

In a report to the 15-member council, Ban also recommended that the council ensure benchmarks be met in Mali’s political process and the operational readiness and human rights training of the international force and Malian army before military operations can start.