Mali intervention in ‘weeks’ away

Mali intervention in ‘weeks’ away

PARIS- Agence France-Presse
Mali intervention in ‘weeks’ away

Mali soldiers march during the independence day celebrations in Bamako after a coup in March. French minister says the intervention to Mali will start soon. AFP photo

An African intervention to oust militants from the north of Mali will start “in a matter of weeks,” French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said yesterday.

“It’s a matter of weeks, not months, weeks,” the minister told France 2 television, calling the region that was overrun by the extremists this year “a terrorist sanctuary.” Le Drian however reiterated that France would “not send troops on the ground,” but would provide “logistical aid” and help in planning. He said U.N. guidelines for such action would have to be respected.

The U.N. Security Council on Oct. 12 gave a 45-day deadline for intervention, saying the plan should include “means and modalities of the envisaged deployment, in particular the concept of operations,” personnel needed and a cost estimate.

The text, which was mainly drafted by France, also urges authorities in Bamako and representatives of “Malian rebel groups” controlling the north to “engage, as soon as possible, in a credible negotiation process.” In March, military coup leaders seized power in Mali’s southern capital Bamako, ousting President Amadou Toumani Toure, only to see the country’s north and east fall to Tuareg rebels and militias linked to al-Qaeda.

Bamako has formally requested a U.N. mandate for an international military force with a deployment in Mali of West African troops that would help reconquer the north.