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France wants Mali UN force in place by April: FM

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-02-07 04:33

PARIS - France wants a United Nations peacekeeping force to be in place in Mali by April, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday.

When asked if it is possible for the Mali mission to be replaced by a UN peacekeeping force by April, Fabius said yes.

"Our experts and partners are aiming for that," he said.

After UN Security Council talks on Mali, French Ambassador to the UN Gerard Araud on Wednesday called on the Security Council to deploy an international peacekeeping operation in Mali to take over from French forces.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday ruled out a long-term deployment of French troops in Mali following positive progress made during France's three-week military intervention against Islamist rebels.

During his one-day visit to Mali last Saturday, French President Francois Hollande stressed that French soldiers would return home once the conflict-torn state has restored sovereignty and a U.N.-backed African military force could take over from the French soldiers.

France has already poured 3,500 soldiers into the West African country and carried out air strikes since January 11 in the rebel-held northern half of Mali.

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