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February 05, 2013

French FM: French Troops to Leave Mali in March

by VOA News

France's foreign minister Laurent Fabius says French troops will start pulling out of Mali next month if, as he says, "all goes as planned."

Fabius made his comments to the Metro newspaper.

French soldiers went to Mali almost one month ago when Islamist extremists who had taken control of the north started moving toward the capital, Bamako.

France plans to withdraw its forces and turn control of recaptured cities over to the Malian army and an African-led military force.

France's Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the French News Agency that French air strikes and ground attacks, with the help of Malian forces, killed several hundred militants in the cities of Konna and Gao in the past month.

Meanwhile, soldiers from Chad are securing the Malian city of Kidal, which was the last major stronghold of Islamist militants in the country. Malian forces took control of Kidal's airport last week after secular Tuareg rebels seized control of Kidal itself.

Also Tuesday, international organizations and officials from Mali met in Brussels to discuss Mali's future and efforts to stabilize the country.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the international community needs to recognize its responsibilities to Mali and "react quickly."

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.