A “terrorist” state must not be allowed to take root in Africa’s Sahel region, where rebels and Islamists have seized the northern half of Mali, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday.
“Everything must be done to avoid the establishment of a terrorist or Islamic state in the heart of the Sahel,” Sarkozy told I-Tele television.
“France is ready to help, but it cannot be in charge for a number of reasons belonging to France’s colonial history. I don't think that it is up to France” to intervene militarily to dislodge the Mali rebels, he said.
“In this part of the world, it’s not up to France to do it, France can help but it cannot be a leader,” he said, adding that Paris could back an African mission to resolve the crisis.
Sarkozy said there nonetheless seemed to be progress in Mali.
He said he was pleased that “things are progressing in Mali, where constitutional order is returning bit by bit, because it was the speaker of parliament who became the interim president and elections will take place.”
Mali’s new interim president Dioncounda Traore, who took over from coup leaders Thursday, is threatening “total war” against the Tuareg and Islamist rebels who have seized over half the country since the putsch three weeks ago.
The mutineers accused the former government of mishandling the Tuareg rebellion, but their action allowed the Tuareg and Islamist militants to take over a vast area in the desert north, effectively splitting the country.