Mali Conflict - France To Increase Troop Numbers

President Francois Hollande says more French troops are to be deployed in Mali to support the 750 in the country countering an Islamist insurgency.
Mr Hollande, visiting the United Arab Emirates, said new air strikes overnight had "achieved their goal".

West African military chiefs will meet in Mali on Tuesday to discuss how an alliance with the French will work.

France began its intervention on Friday with the aim of halting the Islamists' advance south towards the capital.

Late on Monday, the UN Security Council unanimously backed the intervention.

Mr Hollande, on a visit to the French regional military base known as Peace Camp in Abu Dhabi, said: "For now, we have 750 men and the number will increase. New strikes overnight achieved their goal."

He said that assembling an African military force to work with the French troops could take a "good week".

The French contingent is expected to rise to 2,500 in the coming weeks.

Some 30 French tanks and armoured troop transport vehicles crossed into Mali from Ivory Coast on Monday, with a helicopter escort, witnesses said.

Reporters in Bamako say the French want ground reinforcements from West African allies as soon as possible.

Regional military commanders are meeting in the Malian capital on Tuesday to discuss equipment needs and how a military alliance with France would work in practice.

Nigeria is set to lead the regional force, supplying 600 troops. Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger, Senegal and Togo have also pledged soldiers. Britain has deployed troop transporters.

The African force will be deployed under UN Security Council resolution 2085, which was passed in December and allows for a 3,000-strong mission.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says there will be a donor meeting towards the end of January to discuss the funding of the anti-Islamist intervention.

He also denied the French intervention would boost al-Qaeda recruitment.

"It's not encouraging terrorism to combat terrorism," he said.
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