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France continues airstrikes in Mali, regional forces to arrive soon


16:29, January 15, 2013

BAMAKO, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- The French military intervention in Mali has entered its fourth day with continued airstrikes on rebel forces, and the offensive against the rebels is expected to go up as neighboring countries are making final arrangements to send in troops.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Monday said the situation in Mali is "evolving favorably," and the Islamist rebels were blocked in eastern Mali but "extremely armed men made the west a difficult point for French forces."

Despite the progress on the ground, Paris hopes African forces could soon take the lead to contain the rebels and further relieve the tension in the West African country.

"Our goal is to go back to implementation of Resolution 2085 as quickly as possible so that the African forces and the Malian forces take care of the problem and that there is a political agreement," France's UN Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters on Monday as the UN Security Council began talks on the conflict.

Resolution 2085, adopted by the 15-member Security Council in December,authorizes an African-led international military intervention to support Mali in its fight against armed rebels that took control of the country's north following a coup in March.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday welcomed the French-led military intervention in Mali and voiced the hope that it would halt the Islamist assault.

The French military action in Mali is also applauded by many of its partners, with some providing the French troops with various forms of support.

Aside from the United States, Britain and Canada, Germany also pledged to support the French mission in Mali with medical assistance and cargo planes. However, all these countries have shied away from sending combat troops to Mali.

In other related development, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said Monday his administration has concluded arrangements to deploy soldiers to Mali before next week.

"Our technical team is already in Mali and I am sure the Nigerian troops will be in Mali before next week," he said.

He expected that by next week most of the West African countries that have pledged troops to Mali would have finished deploying troops to assist the Mali government.

"We can no longer surrender any part of the globe to extremism, because it doesn't pay and we don't know the next victim. We must collectively discourage individuals or group of individuals that will take laws in their hands and make the world a place that is not safe for all of us," he said.

According to the United Nations, fighting between the rebels and government forces has displaced an estimated 30,000 people in Mali.

"It is feared that the number of people affected may be greater as it has been reported that some Islamist groups have prevented people from moving South," UN Deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said Monday at a daily briefing.

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