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SA backs African forces in Mali

Pretoria - South Africa supports an African led military force in Mali, but understands the need for France's swift intervention to stop a “terrorist” threat, a top diplomat said Thursday.

Last week French troops arrived in Mali to help the national army fend off Islamist fighters who had captured key towns and were pushing south toward the capital Bamako.

A motorcyclist waves his support as French troops in two armored personnel carriers drive through Mali's capital Bamako on the road to Mopti. Credit: AP

“French intervention in Mali is acting in terms of United Nations support for an African-led support mission in Mali,” said deputy foreign minister Ebrahim Ebrahim.

“From the French perspective, the issue in Mali was a terrorist threat involving Al-Qaeda in the Arab Maghreb which posed a threat not only to neighbouring countries in Africa but also to European countries,” he added.

He added, however, that African forces under the auspices of the 15-nation West African bloc ECOWAS should take the lead.

“In Mali we think (the regional group) ECOWAS should be taking the leading position.” Ebrahim told journalists.

He mentioned that President Jacob Zuma was called by President Francois Hollande who informed him that “France had decided on the request of the Malian government to intervene in Mali”.

“It seem that there was a need for some type of rapid intervention in Mali because of a terrorist threat posed by terrorists threatening to take over the capital Bamako,” said Ebrahim. - Sapa-AFP

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