PARIS (Reuters) - France has received approval from the U.S. Pentagon to buy two Reaper drones for intelligence gathering, and now only needs backing from Congress, Le Monde newspaper said on Saturday.

With its current hardware increasingly outdated, France is urgently trying to build up a modern fleet of drones for surveillance operations in countries such as Mali.

Le Monde said France intended to eventually buy a total of five or seven Reapers, built by privately held General Atomics, for 300 million euros ($385 million).

The French-led military intervention in Mali since January has exposed France's shortage of drones suitable for modern warfare.

The U.S. military did not participate in the ground offensive but aided the operation by transporting troops and providing intelligence information from drones based in Niger. ($1 = 0.7798 euros)

(Reporting by Patrick Vignal; Writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Jon Hemming)