by Staff Writers
Lorient, France (AFP) Aug 4, 2012
France would back an African military intervention in Islamist-held northern Mali, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Saturday.
But even if he believed such an operation was inevitable -- and desirable -- it was not for France to take the lead, he added.
"It is not for France to take the military initiative in Mali," he told journalists during a visit to Lorient in northwest France.
He said France "wants it to be the African forces, in particular those of ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) and possibly the African Union, that take the initiative," he said.
An African military intervention in northern Mali was "desirable and inevitable," he added.
"France will support it and, I hope, the European Union also."
At stake was political stability in the south of Mali which was not yet guaranteed, even if interim president Dioncounda Traore had returned to the country from Paris earlier this week, he added.
The situation in the north of the country was "very worrying", said Le Drian.
The hardline Islamists who occupied the vast north in the chaos following a coup in Bamako have tightened control over the area, imposing a harsh form of Islamic law.
Among those now in power in the north are the Islamist group Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Late last month, members of the new Islamist regime dragged an unmarried couple to the centre of the town of Aguelhok for a public stoning, the first reported execution according to strict Sharia law since the takeover.
"We must ... avoid (letting) Mali become a 'Sahelistan'...," Le Drian said, drawing a parallel with hardline Islamist forces in Afghanistan.
He added that he would be discussing Mali with his Spanish counterpart Pedro Morenes later this month, taking time out from a holiday in Spain.
Islamists freed two Spanish aid workers together with an Italian colleague in northern Mali last month: they had abducted them from a Sahrawi refugee camp in Tindouf in western Algeria last October.
Their captors, the previously unknown Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), says it is an offshoot of AQIM.
In a speech on July 14, Bastille Day in France, French President Francois Hollande also said that it was for Africans to decide when and how to intervene in northern Mali, though at the same time he promised unspecified support.
ECOWAS wants to send a 3,000-strong military force to Mali, but is waiting for United Nations approval and a formal request from Bamako.
On Wednesday, ECOWAS pledged support for Mali's interim president Dioncounda Traore, after mediators extended a deadline for the country to form a unity government.
Diarra's interim government was set up in April to take over from the junta which seized power on March 22.
It was in the wake of the March military coup in the south of the country that hardline Islamists and Tuareg rebel forces seeking an independent homeland seized control of the north.
The Islamists subsequently forced out the Tuareg nationalists to take control of the region and imposed Sharia law.
The five-month-old conflict has forced 260,000 Malians to flee to neighbouring countries, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told reporters Friday after a visit to the region.
Africa News - Resources, Health, Food
Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.
Gunmen kill 2 sailors, kidnap 4 foreigners in Nigeria
Lagos (AFP) Aug 4, 2012
Gunmen attacked a barge belonging to an oil services company off the coast of Nigeria on Saturday, killing two Nigerian sailors and kidnapping four foreigners, navy officials said. The suspected sea pirates stormed the vessel in the Gulf of Guinea, an area that has seen a sharp spike in the number of reported marine attacks over the last six months. A spokeswoman for Sea Trucks Group, wh ... read more
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|