European Mali mission sets 2-week deadline for new plan - Danish defence minister

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Denmark's Minister of Defence Trine Bramsen participates in a celebration of UN's 75th anniversary and and a wreath laying ceremony at Kastellet in Copenhagen, Denmark October 24, 2020. Ritzau Scanpix/Olafur Steinar Gestsson via REUTERS

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COPENHAGEN, Jan 28 (Reuters) - The European military mission fighting Islamist militants in Mali will forge a new plan of action within two weeks after the country's ruling military junta demanded the withdrawal of Danish special forces, Denmark's defence minister said on Friday.

Denmark said on Thursday it was pulling its troops out after the junta insisted on an immediate withdrawal, even though France and 14 other European countries had urged the junta to allow Danish special forces to remain in Mali.

"It's a desire to split the alliance, and that requires consequences," Defence Minister Trine Bramsen told Reuters following a virtual meeting between the 16 countries participating in a broader European task force created to fight Islamist militants.

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"Work has therefore been started which must be completed within 14 days, and the countries will jointly decide on what the future counter-terrorism should look like in the Sahel region," Bramsen said.

The moves comes amid friction between Mali and its international allies, including regional bodies and the European Union, that have sanctioned Mali after the junta failed to organise elections following two military coups.

The dispute has also been fueled by allegations that transitional authorities have deployed private military contractors from the Russia-backed Wagner Group to Mali, which some EU countries have said was incompatible with their mission.

Denmark had sent 105 military personnel to Mali on Jan. 18 to join the European special forces mission, known as Takuba. It said its troops had deployed after a "clear invitation" by Mali.

But the Malian government said it was surprised by the Danish presence because a decision had yet to be made on a request from Denmark in June to deploy troops.

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Reporting by Stine Jacobsen, Nikolaj Skydsgaard and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, Editing by Angus MacSwan

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