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French Foreign Minister Pushes Regional Solution to Mali Crisis

France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe (file photo)

France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe (file photo)

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe says West African mediation efforts to solve Mali's crisis are making progress, urging a regional solution to the problem. He separately announced France will push the European Union to relax sanctions against Burma.

Speaking to reporters, Foreign Minister Juppe said it was up to West African countries to resolve the crisis in Mali, where a military coup and a Tuareg rebellion backed by radical Islamists are deeply worrying the international community.

But Juppe said he believed West African mediation efforts led by Burkina Faso's president, Blaise Compaore, were achieving results. The regional Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, has imposed sanctions on Mali and placed its troops on standby as it tries to get the military junta there to restore constitutional rule.

Juppe added that former colonial power France could provide logistical support. But he stressed that it was important that regional governments take the lead in restoring order in Mali.

The french foreign minister also addressed the situation in Syria, where thousands have been killed in a yearlong uprising against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Juppe said he did not believe the Syrian leader was committed to ending his violent crackdown on dissent.

Juppe said he was not optimistic about the prospects of a peace plan by international mediator Kofi Annan. He suggested the Syrian president was fooling the international community by saying he will abide by it. If it goes into force, Juppe said, the Syrian government must be closely monitored to ensure it follows through.

Juppe did offer some upbeat comments about international developments, hailing the recent elections in Senegal, where Macky Sall defeated inclument President Abdoulaye Wade, reinforcing the country's reputation as a stable democracy.

He praised developments in Burma, where democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won her first seat in parliament.

Washington has announced it will ease sanctions against Burma and Juppe said France will push the European Union to do the same.