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France urges Mali to stick to election date

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says vote should be held in July and promises number of French troops will be halved.

Last Modified: 06 Apr 2013 07:56
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The number of French troops in Mali will be halved to 2,000 by the time of a presidential election in July [AFP]

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has urged Mali to stick to its July 7 date for presidential elections and complete the democratic transition.

During a visit to the country on Friday, Fabius also said France is maintaining plans to reduce its military presence in its former colony and halve the number of troops to 2,000 by the time of the vote.

"All my interlocutors support the elections as provided for by the roadmap, and that those elections take place in July. Nobody, including politicians, have proposed anything different and for us it is important that election are held on the date," he said in the capital Bamako.

The once-democratic nation of Mali fell into turmoil last year following a military coup that created a power vacuum, which allowed fighters with ties to al-Qaeda to invade the north of Mali.

Fabius said that political dialogue between the various factions should continue.

"I understood that dialogue, after talking to those responsible, already exists even if it is not formalised. So therefore we very much hope that the dialogue progresses," he said.

France launched a military intervention three months ago and has liberated the three main towns in the north.

Many remain deeply sceptical about the July poll date, however, because it's unclear how the country could hold the ballot in the rural areas where al-Qaeda linked militants are still active.

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