France: We have not finished Mali mission

2013-02-02 21:01
 French President Francois Hollande is hugged by a well-wisher during his two-hour-long visit to Timbuktu, Mali. (Jerome Delay, AP)

French President Francois Hollande is hugged by a well-wisher during his two-hour-long visit to Timbuktu, Mali. (Jerome Delay, AP)

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Bamako - France will withdraw its troops from Mali once the Sahel state has restored sovereignty over its national territory and a UN-backed African military force can take over from the French soldiers, French President Francois Hollande said on Saturday.

"We have not yet finished our mission. But we do not foresee staying indefinitely. Once the sovereignty of Mali is restored, once MISMA [the African force] can replace our own troops, we will withdraw," he told a news conference in Bamako.

Hollande said shortly afterwards in a public speech France's three-week-old military intervention against Islamist rebels had inflicted "heavy losses" on them, but had not eliminated them.

Earlier on Saturday, Malians chanting "Thank you, France!" mobbed Hollande as he visited the desert city of Timbuktu, retaken from Islamist rebels, and pledged France's sustained support for Mali to expel jihadists.

Hollande, accompanied by his ministers for defence, foreign affairs and development, was on a one-day trip to the Sahel nation to support French troops who in three weeks have ousted fighters allied with al-Qaeda from Mali's main northern towns.

He met the interim president, Dioncounda Traore, and the two held talks in Timbuktu and later in Bamako, the capital in the south where the French leader also received a rapturous welcome.

Read more on:    francois hollande  |  dioncounda traore  |  france  |  mali  |  west africa

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