A special summit of West African leaders held in Dakar, Senegal, agreed to dispatch a regional force to Mali if the interim government officially makes the request.
"The conference instructed the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) to prepare the standby force for immediate deployment as soon as Mali asks for it," a statement issued at the meeting said.
The Ecowas Commission would first "consult development partners on the financing of the deployment" of the force, added the statement.
The summit also decided to take drastic action against any party in Mali that hinders the transition process which has been endorsed for the period of one year.
The decisions were taken late Thursday night at the end of the summit which dwelt on the crisis in Mali and Guinea Bissau.
The 15-member Ecowas bloc also condemned the sudden outbreak of fighting in the Malian capital early this week former Presidential Guard troops loyal to the ousted government and soldiers of the military junta led by Captain Amadou Sanogo.
On Guinea-Bissau, the summit demanded the immediate release of all civilian leaders held “illegally” in custody across the country.
About a dozen civilian politicians and members of the civil society are reportedly detained in military barracks by the junta which accused them of "insubordination."
Additionally, the summit urged the Guinea-Bissau military junta to embrace all the conditionalities laid forth by Ecowas especially the restoration of civilian authority at the earliest opportunity.
Early this week, the Bissau junta leader Gen Antonio Indjai categorically rejected the idea of re-installing ousted interim president Raimundo Pereira. The general only promised safe passage home from Abdijan were the ousted leader has taken refuge.
Speaking individually during the summit, Ecowas chairman President Allasane Ouattara of Cote d'Ivoire and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia called for “firm action” against coup makers, adding that Ecowas should set an example with the juntas in Bissau and Mali.
“We have the moral obligations to stand by peace and democracy and the moral responsibility to give Malians and Bissau Guineas the right to live in peace," President Johnson-Sirleaf warned.
"We will be setting a dangerous precedent if we seem to dialogue interminably with coup makers as our citizens continue to live in fear and terror.”