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France wants Mali UN force in place by April: FM

02-07-2013 03:03 BJT

PARIS, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- France wants to have a United Nations peacekeeping force in place in Mali by April, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday.

"Once security is assured, we can certainly envisage, without changing the structures, that it (Mali mission) can be put in the framework of a peacekeeping operation," Fabius said.

When asked if it is possible to achieve the aim by April, Fabius said yes.

"Our experts and partners are aiming for that," he said.

Earlier Wednesday, Fabius said France will start to withdraw its troops from Mali in March.

"We will continue to act in the north where some terrorist havens remain. I think that from March, if everything goes according to plan, the number of French troops should decrease," the top diplomat told the free daily Metro.

After the UN Security Council talks on Mali, French Ambassador to the UN Gerard Araud on Wednesday called on the Security Council to deploy an international peacekeeping operation in Mali to take over from French forces.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday ruled out a long-term deployment of French troops in Mali following positive progress made during France's three-week military intervention against Islamist rebels.

During his one-day visit to Mali last Saturday, French President Francois Hollande stressed that French soldiers would return home once the conflict-torn state has restored sovereignty and a U.N.-backed African military force could take over from the French soldiers.

At the request of Malian President Dioncounda Traore, France has already poured 3,500 soldiers into the West African country and carried out air strikes since Jan. 11 in the rebel-held northern half of Mali.


Editor:James |Source: Xinhua

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