France to start Mali withdrawal

Mali's foreign minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly addresses a news conference after a ministerial meeting in support for Mali at the EU Council in Brussels yesterday. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

Mali's foreign minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly addresses a news conference after a ministerial meeting in support for Mali at the EU Council in Brussels yesterday. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

Wed, Feb 6, 2013, 00:00

France wants the African-led military mission in Mali to be replaced with a United Nations peacekeeping mandate by April, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said today.

"From the moment that security is assured, we can envisage without changing the structures that it can be placed under the framework of UN peacekeeping operations," Mr Fabius told reporters.

Asked if the aim was to have this done by April, he said: "Yes. Our experts and those we are working with are aiming for that."

According to diplomats at the United Nations, the Security Council is looking at adopting a resolution at the end of February or early March to replace the current African mission under the United Nations.

It would then take 45-60 days to "rehat" them as UN forces, which would involve a reduction of their number, the diplomats said.

"On the one hand its an advantage because it's under the United Nations and the financing of the United Nations, but that doesn't mean that there is a modification of the organisation, but just that it will be under the umbrella of the UN," Mr Fabius said.

France plans to begin pulling troops out of Mali from March and will focus its operations on flushing out Islamist rebels in the north of the country.

Reuters

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