France to withdraw most troops from Mali in January as planned
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France said on Tuesday that it would stick to plans to withdraw most of its troops from Mali, as the bodies of the two RFI journalists killed in the north of the country arrived in Paris.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said 150 French soldiers had been sent to join 200 troops already in the northeastern town of Kidal, where RFI journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were killed on Saturday.
But he insisted France would pull two-thirds of the soldiers it has in Mali out of the west African country by the end of January as planned.
Recent incidents "do not call into question the overall schedule to reduce the presence of French forces," Fabius told RFI in an interview this morning.
"We have about 3,000 men in place, it was intended they remain until the elections" [for a new parliament on November 24], he said. "Then we will reduce this number and normally there should be 1,000 soldiers"
France sent the troops to Mali at the beginning of this year to drive out Islamists and Tuareg rebels who had seized the country's vast north after a coup.
Paris has always said the mission would be reduced by two-thirds by early next year, as a 12,600-strong UN peacekeeping force takes over.