West African nations have agreed to send some 3,000 troops to help Mali wrest back control of its northern half, which was seized by al-Qai'da-linked fighters more than six months ago, according to an official involved in the discussions.
The decision came on Sunday at the end of an emergency summit in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, of the Economic Community of West African States.
They were joined by military experts from the United Nations and Europe as well as ministers from Algeria, Mali's neighbour to the north, which has previously been against the military intervention.
The plan needs final approval from the UN Security Council before it can be carried out.
An official involved in the negotiations said the nations in West Africa are now unanimous in their decision to go forward with the military operation.
He said that they will attempt one more round of negotiations with representatives of the Islamists controlling northern Mali before moving ahead with the intervention.
"We have agreed that 3,300 troops will be sent from West Africa. In addition, around 5,000 Malian troops will also be involved. If there is no agreement in the talks, we will move in," said the official.