No military solution to Mali crisis – France
Paris - There is no way to defeat a Tuareg rebellion in Mali by force, France's foreign minister Alain Juppe said on Thursday, calling on the states in the region to help negotiate an end to the crisis.
"There won't be a military solution for the Tuaregs. It's a political solution that we need," Juppe warned in Paris, calling for Algeria, Mauritania and Mali's allies within the Ecowas regional bloc to help out.
While he ruled out once more the idea of sending French troops to the former colony, Juppe said France could provide logistical support to a regional force if one was sent to back the Bamako government.
But he warned the priority for such a force should be to halt any advance by hardline Islamist fighters linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, while talks begin with the larger Tuareg separatist rebellion.
And he said the junta which seized power two weeks ago in Mali should step aside in favour of a return to constitutional government, which would in turn receive regional and international support to manage the crisis.
Juppe's spokesperson added that France would continue to provide humanitarian aid to the Malian population and that France "supports all the efforts of Ecowas, including the preparations for a military intervention".
Ecowas military chiefs met in Abidjan on Thursday to discuss the possible deployment of a regional force to deal with the crisis in Mali.
Chiefs of the staff from most of the 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) went in for talks chaired by Ivorian junior defence minister Paul Koffi Koffi.
Senior US and French officers also attended the meeting.