Paris, 17 Rabiul Awwal 1434/29 January 2013 (MINA) – French President Francois Hollande, assuring that the Mali campaign was being won, said Monday that France would leave that country once the current campaign against Islamist-led forces was completed.
France “has not the vocation” to stay in Mali, Hollande said in a press conference at the Elysee Palace, according to Kuwait news agency (KUNA) report received by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA), Tuesday.
The French leader was speaking as reports said a French-led military coalition with Malian forces had taken the important town of Timbuktu, having already taken the strategic down of Gao over the weekend.
The mobile, Islamist groups, composed of Al-Qaeda for an Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar Al-Dine (Defenders of the Religion) and the Movement for Unified Justice in West Africa (MUJAO) were said to be in retreat.
France has close to 3,000 soldiers deployed in Mali after its intervention began there on January 10 to face-off a challenge from the militants who were attempting to move on the capital, Bamako.
“We are winning this battle,” Hollande affirmed in his statement.
West African and other African nations are currently deploying several thousand troops who will be trained by about 500 European Union advisers, due to arrive in Mali by February 15.
France has committed to handing over security in the country to the African forces as soon as they are trained and equipped.
The African troops are being deployed under UN Security Council mandate and are expected to receive financing from the international community at a meeting in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, on Tuesday.
The African Union, which backs the deployment in Mali, indicated that the budgetary needs for the force could exceed USD 450 million, well above initial estimates of about half of that sum.
The higher figure reflects a decision to more than double the size of the force, which was originally intended to be around 3,400 men. (T/P09/E1).
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)