French foreign minister says it is 'crucial that peace is restored in Mali'

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(6 Apr 2012) 1. French finance minister Francois Baroin entering news conference

2. Wide of members of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Baroin

3. Pan of officials with Baroin and Christian Noyer, French central bank governor

4. SOUNDBITE (French) Francois Baroin, French finance minister:

"It is obviously crucial that peace is restored in Mali to protect the population, whose suffering is in our hearts and minds. That is why we have decided to maintain the humanitarian aid programmes which won't be affected by the freeze of the international funding."

5. Wide of news conference

6. SOUNDBITE (French) Francois Baroin, French finance minister:

"France condemns especially the acts of violence in Northern Mali and the terrorist activities and today we are solemnly calling for the return of constitutional order and for the respect of unity and territorial integrity in Mali."

7. Cutaway of media

8. SOUNDBITE (French) Charles Koffi Diby, Ivory Coast finance minister and representative of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS):

"As the Central Bank didn't receive any authorisation, it decided that while waiting for these authorisations from a recognised legitimate regime - it's a bit like what happened in Ivory Coast in fact - we suspended our operations. That's it. It's because of the government."

9. Wide of news conference

STORYLINE:

France's finance minister said on Friday that humanitarian aid programmes won't be affected by the freeze on international funding to Mali.

"It is obviously crucial that peace is restored in Mali to protect the population, whose suffering is in our hearts and minds. That is why we have decided to maintain the humanitarian aid programmes," Francois Baroin told a news conference in Paris.

France, which earlier said it is willing to offer logistical support for a military invasion, announced on Friday that it does not recognise the new Tuareg state, which has been declared in the north of the country.

The Tuaregs have taken advantage of the power vacuum following a chaotic military coup in the capital Bamako last month.

"France condemns especially the acts of violence in Northern Mali and the terrorist activities and today we are solemnly calling for the return of constitutional order and for the respect of unity and territorial integrity in Mali," Baroin said.

The military chiefs of 13 of Mali's neighbours met on Thursday in Ivory Coast to hash out plans for a military intervention to push back the rebels in the north, as well as to restore constitutional rule after disgruntled soldiers last month stormed the presidential palace and sent the democratically elected leader into hiding.

The confusion in the capital created an opening for the rebels in the north, who have been attempting to claim independence for more than 50 years.

The coup has been widely condemned by the international community, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has imposed diplomatic and economic sanctions on the junta.

"As the Central Bank didn't receive any authorisation from a recognised legitimate regime, we suspended our operations," said Charles Koffi Diby, the Ivory Coast finance minister and ECOWAS representative.

The traditionally nomadic Tuareg people have been fighting for independence for the northern half of Mali since at least 1958, when Tuareg elders wrote a letter addressed to the French president asking their colonial rulers to carve out a separate homeland called "Azawad" in their language.

The Tuaregs accuse the southerners of marginalising the north and of concentrating development, including lucrative aid projects, in the south.





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