ABUJA  - A West African summit on Sunday agreed on an African force of 3,300 troops with a one-year mandate to wrest control of northern Mali from extremists, Ivory Coast’s president said.

“We foresee 3,300 soldiers for a timeframe of one year,” Alassane Ouattara told journalists after the summit of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States in the Nigerian capital Abuja.

The troops would come primarily from ECOWAS nations, but possibly from countries outside the bloc as well, he said.

Ouattara said he hoped UN Security Council approval could come in late November or early December, which would allow the force to be put in place days afterward. “We have countries that are offering battalions, others companies,” he said.

ECOWAS countries he named were Nigeria, Senegal, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Togo.

From outside of ECOWAS, “Chad could also participate. We have had contacts with other countries — Mauritania, South Africa.” Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said that an intervention force was needed to flush out extremists from northern Mali and avoid “costly consequences” for Africa.

The leaders retreated behind closed doors for talks after the ceremony. They took an hour break for lunch in the afternoon before resuming discussions.

Mali rapidly imploded after a coup in Bamako in March allowed Tuareg desert nomads, who had relaunched a decades-old rebellion for independence, to seize the main towns in the north with the help of Islamist allies.

The secular separatists were quickly sidelined by the Islamists, who had little interest in their aspirations for an independent homeland and set about implementing their version of strict sharia law, meting out punishments including stonings and destroying World Heritage shrines. Discussions among west African states so far have involved the deployment of more than 3,000 troops from the region to Mali, with more contributions to be requested from other countries. An ECOWAS source has said military chiefs were requesting a total of 5,500 troops.

Regional leaders have stressed that dialogue remains the preferred option to resolve the crisis in what was once one of west Africa’s most stable democracies.

Representatives from countries outside ECOWAS were also invited to Sunday’s summit, including from Mauritania and Algeria, which neighbour Mali, as well as South Africa and Morocco, which currently hold seats on the UN Security Council. Libya was also represented, an ECOWAS spokesman said.

Prime Minister Emmanuel Nadingar of Chad, also not an ECOWAS member, told the opening ceremony that many countries present faced similar threats from such extremist groups.

“And the risk grows daily because those terrorist, jihadist and mafia factions recruit young people — even the not so young — who come from all backgrounds to carry out their work of destruction and destablisation of our states,” he said.

ECOWAS Commission President Kadre Desire Ouedraogo has said the bloc should pursue a dual approach of dialogue and military pressure.

The UN special envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi, a former prime minister of Italy and ex-president of the European Commission, has said every effort would be made to avoid military intervention.

But some analysts have questioned whether a negotiated solution is possible with Islamist extremists intent on establishing a theocratic state.

At the same time, analysts and others warn of the risks a continued occupation of the north poses to countries beyond Mali given it could provide a safe haven to Al Qaeda-linked extremists and criminal groups.

The ECOWAS military strategy the leaders were examining Sunday was drawn up with the help of experts from the European Union, the African Union, United Nations and the region, which is also seeking logistical support from elsewhere.

Foreign and defence ministers from five European countries — France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain — are expected to meet next Thursday to discuss a European mission to train Malian troops.

“We will not intervene — it will be for the Africans to decide — but we have the responsibility to stand with them,” French President Francois Hollande said in Paris.

Algeria, seen as important to any military operation, has been hesitant to get involved, preferring a negotiated solution.

While not a member of ECOWAS, Algeria is viewed as key due to its superior military capabilities, intelligence services and experience battling Islamist extremism, along with the long border it shares with Mali.