Mali junta expels French ambassador
Mali has ordered the French ambassador to leave the West African country in response to what it called "hostile and outrageous" comments about its military government.
Ambassador Joel Meyer was summoned to the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Monday and given 72 hours to depart.
The move follows remarks by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Friday, during which he called Mali's military junta "illegitimate" and its decisions "irresponsible."
Mali's transitional government shot back in a statement on Monday saying it "condemns and rejects these remarks, which are contrary to the development of friendly relations between nations."
Growing tensions between Mali and France
Relations between Mali and its former colonial ruler deteriorated sharply this month when the junta went back on an agreement to organize elections in February and proposed holding power until 2025.
France is also concerned about Mali's alleged use of Russian mercenaries to fight Islamist insurgents. France is leading an international contingent fighting the insurgency across several countries in the Sahel region.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly said Saturday that French troops would not stay in Mali if the price was too high.
Denmark withdrawing troops amid dispute
Mali last week asked Denmark to withdraw its troops, part of an international contingent fighting the insurgency.
France asked Mali to let the Danish troops stay, but a spokesperson for the government told France to keep its "colonial reflexes" to itself.
On Monday, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod condemned Mali's move to expel the French ambassador.
"Such irresponsible behavior is not what we expect from Mali," he wrote on Twitter, adding that the country would lose its international credibility.
Denmark's defense minister said European allies were drawing up plans on how best to continue their fight against militants in Mali given the strained relations with the military junta.
lo/nm (AFP, Reuters)