VALLETTA - Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki called on Saturday for the creation of a regional task force to deal with the "humanitarian disaster" which has killed thousands of desperate African migrants trying to reach Europe in small, unseaworthy boats.

Speaking at the conclusion of a meeting of European and north African leaders in Malta, Marzouki said the task force would have to coordinate work already being done by foreign and interior ministries as well as regional bodies.

"We don't want this to be a military operation, we want this to be a humanitarian operation," he said. "We cannot accept having hundreds and thousands of people drowning in the sea."

But he warned that a solution to the problem at the heart of the crisis, instability, persistent poverty and destructively high youth unemployment in Africa, was still a distant prospect.

"We need time, we cannot do miracles in a few months," he told a news conference at the end of the meeting.

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