PARIS (Reuters) - France has total confidence in the Algerian government to resolve a standoff at a desert gas facility where dozens of Western and Algerian hostages are being held, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday.
Le Drian said he would travel to Berlin in the next few hours, however, to talk to his German counterpart about France’s military campaign against Islamist rebels in Mali, which the hostage-takers in Algeria say must end.
A French government source told Reuters that Paris would ask its international partners for more military backing for its Mali campaign, but would not say if that meant sending soldiers to back the 1,400 French troops on the ground there.
“We are going to ask today for the support of other countries,” the source said. “We do not necessarily need troops at the moment but the African armies will need to be supported once they get involved in the conflict.”
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was expected to press the issue with European Union foreign ministers at an emergency meeting in Brussels on Thursday where it was agreed to push on with a plan to send hundreds of military personnel to train Malian government forces in fighting the rebels.
Even before the Algerian hostage crisis raised the stakes for France’s campaign in Mali, opposition politicians expressed concern that France has been left alone to fight Mali’s Islamist rebels, with Western partners limiting their involvement to offering logistical, surveillance and medical equipment and some cargo planes.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he spoke twice on Wednesday evening to his Algerian counterpart and they agreed that the situation in northern Mali and Algeria merited the attention of the international community.
Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau and John Irish; Writing by Catherine Bremer