France pledges help to Mali until stability returns | News | DW | 16.01.2013
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France pledges help to Mali until stability returns

Mali is to have French military support until it can restore stability, according to French President Francois Hollande. Meanwhile, Chancellor Merkel has said Germany supports the intervention, but will limit its aid.

Speaking during a visit to the United Arab Emirates, Hollande acknowledged the possibility that French troops could remain in Mali for many months.

"We have one goal. To ensure that when we leave, when we end our intervention, Mali is safe, has legitimate authorities, an electoral process and there are no more terrorists threatening its territory," the French president told a news conference.

France launched an aerial campaign against Islamist rebels in the country's north at the request of Mali's government. The rebels' advance toward the capital, Bamako, had prompted urgent pleas for military intervention.

In early 2012, the al Qaeda-linked Islamists had gradually taken over northern Mali, which is comparable to the size of France, after a military coup had plunged the region into chaos.

On Tuesday, Islamist forces retained control over the central cities of Diabaly and Konna which they took the previous day. French troops were reportedly moving armament northwards to attempt to regain the lost ground.

The French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the relative success of the French military on its fifth day in the country.

"We are up against a determined adversary that is well-equipped and has not given up, but we have hit them hard with our strikes, including those deep in their territory," Le Drian said, according to the news agency AFP.

"Malian forces have been sorely tried in recent combat. Our presence has strengthened them," he added.

Merkel: Germany must help Mali

Germany was considering whether to provide logistical or humanitarian assistance to Mali, Chancellor Angela Merkel told public radio station NDR on Tuesday. However, parliament must first assess what assistance would be plausible given the current international commitments of its military.

"We can't forget that Germany also maintains an active military presence in other regions where other countries do not, such Afghanistan and Kosovo," the Chancellor added.

Germany, like the United Kingdom and the United States, has already ruled out sending in troops.

When asked why her cabinet supported taking action in this conflict - as opposed to in other countries where Islamists also pose a threat to political stability - Merkel replied that Germany and other nations had an obligation to help because Mali had requested it. Moreover, the United Nations had approved the intervention.

But, the Chancellor said, each government must determine for itself what form of aid it could best provide.

West African leaders set to deploy troops

While Western allies offered transport airplanes, helicopters and other logistical support to the French military intervention, the defense chiefs of the 15-nation West African bloc ECOWAS announced they would reconvene on Wednesday to approve the deployment of 3,300 troops.

Nigeria said it would send about 900 troops total, according to the Nigerian defense spokesman. Senegal, Burkina Faso and Niger have also pledged military assistance.

kms/jm (AFP, Reuters, dpa)