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Mali Orders Expulsion of French Ambassador


FILE - Joel Meyer, French ambassador to Mali, speaks to the press in Bamako, Jan. 21, 2022.

Mali said it is expelling the French ambassador because of "hostile and outrageous" comments by former colonial power France about Mali's transitional government.

A statement read on national television Monday said French Ambassador Joel Meyer has been given 72 hours to leave the country.

"This measure follows the hostile and outrageous comments made recently by the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs and the recurrence of such comments by the French authorities with regard to the Malian authorities, despite repeated protests," the statement said.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said last week that Mali's junta was "illegitimate and takes irresponsible measures." He also described the junta as "out of control."

FILE - A supporter holds a flag of France, with the drawing of a skull on it, during a demonstration called by Mali's transitional government, in Bamako, Mali, Jan. 14, 2022. The flag reads "Death to France and allies."
FILE - A supporter holds a flag of France, with the drawing of a skull on it, during a demonstration called by Mali's transitional government, in Bamako, Mali, Jan. 14, 2022. The flag reads "Death to France and allies."


The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday that it would recall Meyer from Mali.

Relations between Mali and France deteriorated this month after the junta went back on an agreement to organize elections in February. Instead, the junta has proposed staying in power for up to another five years.

European nations have also expressed concern that Mali's interim government has accepted private Russian security contractors.

France has had troops in Mali since 2013 when it sent forces at the request of Malian leaders to stop Islamist militants who were advancing on the capital. The latest dispute raises questions about whether French troops will remain in the country.

Last week, Mali's junta demanded that Denmark withdraw its newly arrived contingent of soldiers to Mali. The junta accused Denmark of deploying without authorization, a charge Copenhagen denied.

Denmark's foreign minister said Friday that it supports France in the latest diplomatic dispute.

"Reports the French Ambassador has been declared Persona Non Grata by Mali transitional authorities are unacceptable. Denmark stands in full solidarity with France," Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said in a tweet on Friday.

Mali's interim leader Assimi Goita seized power in August 2020 citing widespread popular dissatisfaction toward elected leader Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. However, less than a year later in May 2021, Goita overthrew the transitional government that he helped set up, citing a Cabinet reshuffle that excluded two key military leaders.

Goita claimed the move violated the terms of the new government. French President Emmaneul Macron called the action "a coup within a coup."

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.

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