x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

France's Hollande asks for UAE warplanes or money for Mali intervention

Francois Hollande, the French president, has asked the UAE to support his country's intervention in Mali, saying he was determined to drive out the Al Qaeda-linked militants who had taken over the North of the country.

Francois Hollande, the French president, is welcomed by vice admiral Marin Gillier, left, chief of the French troops in the UAE, at the French naval base Camp de la Paix in Abu Dhabi. Bertrand Langlois / AFP
Francois Hollande, the French president, is welcomed by vice admiral Marin Gillier, left, chief of the French troops in the UAE, at the French naval base Camp de la Paix in Abu Dhabi. Bertrand Langlois / AFP

Francois Hollande, the French president, has asked the UAE to support his country's intervention in Mali with warplanes or financial assistance.

Mr Hollande said France was determined to drive out the Al Qaeda-linked militants who had taken over northern Mali and this month began a push south towards the capital, Bamako.

He said the UAE had not agreed to any specific aid for the French military campaign but had voiced support for the intervention.

"The Emirates can determine for themselves what to do to support it," he said.

Mr Hollande said that his country's involvement in the former French colony was fully backed by international law and would be swift.

France has deployed 750 troops so far and plans to send 1,750 more as an African military coalition readies itself in a United Nations-backed plan.

"It's the Africans who will be their own defenders, protectors," Mr Hollande said last night in Dubai.

He denied it was an attempt by his country to defend any continuing business interests.

"It has nothing to do with another epoque of another time. What businesses? We defend no cause but that of the territory of Mali and we have no adversary but terrorism."

The African forces could take as long as a week to mobilise, he said, adding that France would not leave until Mali had "legitimate authorities, an electoral process", and was rid of terrorists.

The UK has lent two cargo planes and the US and Denmark have provided logistics.

Northern Mali, a desert region the size of France, has switched hands from an elected government, to mutinous soldiers, to Al Qaeda in less than a year.

Amnesty International has already reported cases of torture and other abuse for captured soldiers and journalists in Bamako.

Mr Hollande took the opportunity in Abu Dhabi to galvanise support from leaders of other nations, including Mauritania, which has already agreed to seal its border to fighters seeking refuge.

He urged Mauritania, Chad and the DRC to mobilise troops.

The French leader also addressed the suspected nuclear weapons programme in Iran and its support of the regime of Bashar Al Assad in Syria.

"Nuclear proliferation is a major danger not only for this region but for the world," he said. "It's true that Iran is supporting Bashar Al Assad. Is it a support that has a future? I don't think so."

ayee@thenational.ae