Saturday, January 19, 2013

French FM: Africans must join Mali battle

(BBC) West African leaders have been told they must "pick up the baton" in the military offensive to drive Islamist insurgents out of Mali.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France had been obliged to send in troops "very, very rapidly otherwise there would be no more Mali".

But he has told a meeting in the Ivory Coast that the deployment of African soldiers is now a priority.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara also called for more support for Mali.

He said "the hour has come for a broader commitment by the major powers and more countries and organisations... to show greater solidarity with France and Africa in the total and multi-faceted war against terrorism in Mali".

France's Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Saturday that 2,000 troops were now on the ground in Mali, and the final total could top the 2,500 originally pledged.

The troops will stay in Mali for as long as necessary "to defeat terrorism" in West Africa, President Francois Hollande has said.

Islamist fighters on Friday withdrew from two towns in central Mali following French air strikes.

Officials say the Islamists have now left the southern town of Diabaly, which they took on Monday, while Mali's army has also recaptured Konna, which was seized by rebels triggering the French intervention.