PARIS (AP) — President Francois Hollande drew a line in the sand Friday against al-Qaida-linked militants in Mali who have been advancing toward its capital: France will be ready to intervene to stop any further advance.
The announcement by the leader of France, the former colonial overseer in west Africa and the Western power with the greatest muscle there today, comes after Mali's president appealed for French help in stopping the rebels' advance.
Until now, France — like other EU nations — has limited its plans for assistance to training and logistics support for Mali's troubled army. France has hundreds of troops across western Africa — in Senegal, Ivory Coast, Chad and Gabon.
But on Friday, Hollande went a step further, saying he was ready to respond to Mali's call for help.
The rebels "have even tried to deal a fatal blow to the very existence of Mali," he said in a speech to France's diplomatic corps. "France, like its African partners and the entire international community, cannot accept that."
He said France "will be ready to stop the terrorists' advance if it continues." He did not provide details of how it would do that.
Hollande said France would seek United Nations resolutions for any action.
Extremists who have controlled the north for months captured the city of Konna on Thursday and are threatening the city of Mopti — with 100,000 inhabitants. The capture of Mopti would leave the capital Bamako more vulnerable.