19 January 2013

Africa: Leaders Hold Summit On Mali Crisis

Abidjan — West African leaders and France were poised to meet Saturday at an emergency summit in Ivory Coast to fast track the deployment of African troops and boost a French-backed offensive in Mali against Islamist rebels.

The meeting in the port city of Abidjan comes after Malian soldiers, backed by French troops and air power, retook a key central town from rebels swooping down from their northern stronghold and threatening the capital Bamako.

France, which began the military operation codenamed Serval after Konna fell to Al-Qaeda-linked fighters on January 11, will be represented by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

"I will go there with a military attache and we will see with our African friends how we can speed up the deployment of MISMA," or the International Mission for Mali Assistance, Fabius said.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has pledged to boost the French effort with a total of about 5,800 troops. But only about a 100 have actually reached Mali.

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