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French President Hollande Visits Mali

French President Francois Hollande has arrived in the ancient Malian town of Timbuktu, three weeks after French forces launched their intervention against Islamist militants in the African country.

Mr. Hollande, accompanied by the defense and development ministers, flew into the central town of Sevare Saturday before heading to Timbuktu in the troubled north. He also plans to visit the capital, Bamako, in the former French colony. President Hollande is expected to outline French plans for the mission against insurgents in Mali.

French forces recaptured Timbuktu from Islamist rebels on Sunday.

The president's visit Saturday comes as French-backed Malian forces were securing the town of Kidal, the last major stronghold of Islamist militants in the country's north.

On Thursday, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian declared the intervention in Mali a success, but added that Mali's situation is not yet secure.



The minister said in an interview on French radio that the Malians must establish "a reconciliation process" to ensure a stable future.

Mali's interim president, Dioncounda Traore, has said he will not hold talks with Islamists who controlled the north before French and Malian forces drove them out.

But Mr. Traore told French radio Thursday he would consider meeting with the Tuareg rebel group MNLA if it drops its claim to Malian territory.

The MNLA has been fighting for a Tuareg homeland. It seized part of northern Mali last year and later joined forces with Islamic militants when the Malian government collapsed.

The Tuaregs later split with the militants when they imposed conservative Islamic law in the north, and the MNLA now says it backs the French military operation in Mali.

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