French President Arrives in Mali
French President Francois Hollande arrived in central Mali Saturday, 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 town of Sevare, and will later visit Timbuktu and the capital, Bamako in the former French colony.
The president’s visit 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.VOA