CAIRO (Reuters) - Leaders of Muslim nations declared support on Thursday for the unity and territorial integrity of Mali and condemned terrorism in the west African state but said nothing of French military intervention to drive out Islamist fighters.
A resolution adopted at a two-day summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation backed the deployment of an international military mission in Mali under African leadership and called for a roadmap for presidential and parliamentary elections.
The omission of any mention of France reflected embarrassment over the recourse to a former colonial power in a Muslim country, even though the 57-member OIC condemned “terrorism and extremism and attacks on historic sites in Mali”.
Paris sent troops and warplanes last month at the request of the Malian government to stop al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters that had captured the north of the country advancing towards the capital, Bamako, and help Malian forces retake northern towns.
Senegalese President Macky Sall, the outgoing chairman of the OIC, praised the French action in his speech on Wednesday but other countries were reluctant to make reference to it.
French and Malian forces are still fighting the rebels in the Sahara outside northern Mali’s biggest town after a lightning advance in which French officials say hundreds of fighters were killed. One French helicopter pilot was killed on the first day of the intervention.
Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Jon Hemming