PARIS Jan 11 France will support Mali's request
for military assistance to help counter an offensive by Islamist
rebels but strictly within the framework of U.N. Security
Council resolutions, President Francois Hollande said on Friday.
Mali asked for French help on Thursday after residents of a
northern town said the rebels, who control much of the northern
two-thirds of the country, drove out the Malian army in a major
setback to government forces.
"I have decided that France will respond, alongside our
African partners, to the request from the Malian authorities. We
will do it strictly within the framework of United Nations
Security Council resolutions," Hollande said in a New Year
speech to diplomats and journalists.
"We are faced with a blatant aggression that is threatening
Mali's very existence. France cannot accept this," Hollande
said. "We will be ready to stop the terrorists' offensive if it
A U.N. resolution in December authorised the deployment of
an African-led military force and agreed European states could
help rebuild Mali's army ahead of an operation later in 2013.
French government officials have declined to comment on
reports that military aircraft, including two cargo planes and
four helicopters carrying Western-looking soldiers, landed late
on Thursday at an airport by the town of Sevare, near the latest