Mobile  |  About us  |  Photos  |  Videos  |  Subscriptions  |  RSS Feeds  |  Today's Paper  |  Classifieds  |  Contact Us
The Daily Star
FRIDAY, 18 APR 2014
04:17 PM Beirut time
Weather    
Beirut
22 °C
Blom Index
BLOM
1,214.01down
International
Follow this story Print RSS Feed ePaper share this
Mali prime minister urges French troops to stay
Agence France Presse
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (R) shakes hands Mali's Prime Minister Diango Cissoko before a meeting in Bamako on April 5, 2013. AFP PHOTO / HABIBOU KOUYATE
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (R) shakes hands Mali's Prime Minister Diango Cissoko before a meeting in Bamako on April 5, 2013. AFP PHOTO / HABIBOU KOUYATE
A+ A-

GAO, Mali: Mali's prime minister urged France Thursday to maintain a military presence in its former colony, as troops began an early withdrawal three months after ousting armed Islamists from the country's north.

Diango Cissoko made the plea on a tour of Gao, the first visit to the battle-scarred northern city by a head of government since it was overrun by Al-Qaeda-linked militants more than a year ago.

The premier, who was welcomed by locals and military personnel, paid tribute to the French troops who intervened to liberate northern Mali from the armed militias in January.

"The Malian nation will be eternally grateful," he said.

But he urged the French army to "continue on this path" and stay in Mali, despite Paris pulling out 100 soldiers ahead of schedule this week as part of a phased withdrawal of the majority of its 4,000 troops.

France has said it will leave 2,000 soldiers on the ground throughout the summer, reducing its presence by the end of the year to a "support force" of 1,000 fighting alongside a UN-mandated army of some 11,000 troops.

The cities of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal fell in March last year to Tuareg rebels who declared independence of the entire desert north before losing control to armed Islamists.

French warplanes bombed parts of Gao in January to drive out fighters from the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), and the city was recaptured for the Bamako government by French and Malian forces on January 26.

Just days later, jihadists managed to infiltrate the city, where they staged the first suicide bombing in Mali's history.

French troops fighting alongside the Malian army and other African soldiers have largely succeeded in driving Islamist insurgents from the north but pockets of resistance remain, particularly in the Gao region.

A thousand French soldiers have been conducting an operation to destroy MUJAO's logistics infrastructure in a valley north of Gao since Sunday.

Parallel to the ongoing military operations, the international community is pushing for a formal process of reconciliation between the deeply divided nation's diverse ethnic communities ahead of presidential elections scheduled for July.

Late on Wednesday Interim President Dioncounda Traore designated 30 members of a Dialogue and Reconciliation Commission, including eight representatives of the Tuareg and Arab communities, which have complained about rights abuses by Malian security forces who often equate them with Islamists.

The country's main political party, the Alliance for Democracy in Mali, has announced that its candidate for the election will be Dramane Dembele, 46, a mining engineer and former student of Traore, regarded as a close ally.

Dembele was arrested in April last year and held for a number of weeks after a military coup that overthrew the regime of president Amadou Toumani Toure and precipitated the fall of the north to Islamists.

Many questions remain about the possibility of holding elections within such a tight timescale due to continued instability in the north, which has still not seen the return of some 400,000 displaced people and refugees who fled the war.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Wednesday it needed an additional 33 million euros ($43.3 million) to help hundreds of thousands of victims of the conflict.

 
Home International
 
     
 
Mali / France
Advertisement
Comments  

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

comments powered by Disqus
Advertisement


Baabda 2014
Advertisement
Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Linked In Follow us on Google+ Subscribe to our Live Feed
Multimedia
Images  
Pictures of the day
A selection of images from around the world- Friday April 18, 2014
View all view all
Advertisement
Rami G. Khouri
Rami G. Khouri
Silencing Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s hate talk
Michael Young
Michael Young
Why confuse gibberish with knowledge?
David Ignatius
David Ignatius
Putin will keep rolling, until Obama says no
View all view all
Advertisement
cartoon
 
Click to View Articles
 
 
News
Business
Opinion
Sports
Culture
Technology
Entertainment
Privacy Policy | Anti-Spamming Policy | Disclaimer | Copyright Notice
© 2014 The Daily Star - All Rights Reserved - Designed and Developed By IDS