With the French military operations in Mali expected to last longer than expected, Paris has sought funding from rich Arab Gulf states, saying “everybody” should help in fighting the al-Qaeda-linked extremists in the African country.
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius has said donors would meet by the end of January to provide funding for an African force due to be deployed in Mali within a week. He said the fighting in Mali is part of the global fight against terrorism and that “everybody has to commit to oneself in fighting against terrorism.”
“We are pretty confident that the Emirates will go into that direction as well,” Fabius was quoted by the Abu Dhabi-based The National as saying.
“We shall have a discussion with the authorities in the Emirates. There are different ways of helping, it can be through materials, can be through financing,” Fabius said.
France pledged on Tuesday to keep troops in Mali until stability returned to the West African country, raising the specter of a long campaign against al Qaeda-linked rebels who held their ground despite a fifth day of air strikes.
Paris has poured hundreds of soldiers into Mali and carried out 50 bombing raids since Friday in the Islamist-controlled northern half of the country, which Western and regional states fear could become a base for terrorist attacks in Africa and Europe.
Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that, despite French air support, Malian forces had not been able to dislodge Islamist fighters from the central Malian towns of Konna or Diabaly, just 350 km (220 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako.
A column of French armored vehicles rolled northward from the dusty riverside city of Bamako towards rebel lines on Tuesday, the first major northward deployment of ground troops. A military official declined to comment on their objective.
Thousands of African soldiers are due to take over the offensive. Regional armies are scrambling to accelerate an operation which was initially not expected until September and has been brought forward by France’s surprise bombing campaign aimed at stopping a rebel advance on a strategic town last week.
President Francois Hollande, on a visit to the United Arab Emirates during which he sought Gulf states’ financial backing for the African-led mission, suggested France would retain a major role in its former colony for months to come.
“We have one goal. To ensure that when we leave, when we end our intervention, Mali is safe, has legitimate authorities, an electoral process and there are no more terrorists threatening its territory,” Hollande told a news conference.
Paris has said it plans to deploy 2,500 soldiers to bolster the Malian army and work with the intervention force provided by West African states.