The UN Security Council will consider plans to deploy a new UN peacekeeping force to Mali to help pacify the northern part of the West African country following France's ejection of militants from the cities there, a senior diplomat has said.

The Security Council last month passed a resolution approving a multinational African force to help stabilize Mali. But with the rebel forces in retreat, that plan has been overtaken by events on the ground.

Instead, the Security Council will discuss a regular UN peacekeeping force for Mali instead, the senior Western diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the plans were in an early phase of discussion.

The force would probably be composed of 3,000 to 5,000 peacekeepers, the diplomat said.

A UN peacekeeping force would be a positive development, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday on France-Inter radio.

"The evolution announced by the UN would be a very positive evolution, and I want this initiative to be carried out," he said. "France will play its role, of course."

French troops might still be needed to stay on for a while as a rapid-reaction strike force, with more aggressive duties in comparison to the pacification program assigned to the UN peacekeepers, the diplomat said.

The United States, Britain and France favour the UN peacekeeping force approach. The change in plans would require a new Security Council resolution.

Canadian mission in Mali costs $18.6 million

The Canadian military said Thursday the total cost of providing a transport plane to aid international efforts in Mali is $18.6 million.

Maj.-Gen. Jonathan Vance told a House of Commons committee that the C-17 Globemaster plane provided to help French forces has flown 13 non-combat missions and moved over 350,000 kilograms of cargo since its deployment on Jan. 17.

Canada has agreed to extend the mission until the middle of February.

Foreign Affairs assistant deputy minister Kerry Buck said Canadian representatives will be attending an upcoming EU meeting on Africa in Brussels and that Canada is currently considering what further assistance to provide.