With its talk of "destroying" enemies and confronting "jihadi terrorists", France has adopted a language of war for its intervention in Mali that few expected from Socialist President Francois Hollande.
The first troops from a multinational African intervention force were expected in Mali Wednesday as French soldiers drove out to face Islamist fighters in the north, in their first operation.
French forces intervening in Mali are facing a determined, experienced and well-armed foe and will not be able to quickly count on the backing of an organised African ground force.
The United States has chosen to play a cautious supporting role to France's military action against Islamist fighters in Mali, after Washington's own attempt to build up the African nation's army backfired badly.
Francois Hollande's decision to order French forces into battle in Mali represents a watershed moment for a president derided by his critics as a compulsive ditherer.
France has asked the United Nations to "accelerate" implementation of a resolution that enables the deployment of an international force to Mali.
The UN Security Council on Thursday unanimously approved sending an African-led military force to help reconquer northern Mali from Islamist militants.
The UN Security Council on Wednesday ordered sanctions against an Al-Qaeda linked Islamist group in a new sign of the tougher line being taken with militants who have taken over much of the Mali.
A coalition of Malian political parties and a citizen's association based in the Islamist-occupied north on Sunday objected to Algeria and Burkina Faso's role in mediating their country's crisis.
Chief regional mediator Blaise Compaore will meet Mali's Ansar Dine Islamists and Tuareg rebels together for the first time on Friday, amid calls for urgent dialogue to resolve the crisis in northern Mali.
The African Union has endorsed a plan for military intervention to regain control of Mali's desert north from Islamist rebels and restore the authority of the state.
Islamist extremists occupying northern Mali pose a threat not just to the immediate region but to European security, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Sunday.
Burkina Faso led efforts Sunday to persuade one of the armed Islamist groups controlling northern Mali to cut ties with Al-Qaeda as a west African military intervention looms to end the crisis.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Thursday that the stability of Mali was "important for Europe's security" during a visit to the divided west African country under Islamist control in the north.
Hundreds of jihadist fighters poured into Mali over the weekend to support the Islamists who have controlled the north for seven months ahead of a threatened regional intervention.
The Islamists who have seized control of Mali's desert north are growing increasingly brutal as they impose sharia on the region, even as they violate the strict Muslim law themselves, say fleeing residents.
Europe's foreign ministers will sharply ramp up the pressure on Iran and Syria at talks Monday, while taking a "big step" in Africa by agreeing to assist Mali reconquer its north from rebels and Islamist extremists.
It was just six months ago that Toula, a young woman from Gao in northeastern Mali, could swim and do her laundry in the nearby Niger River.
Two people have died and 26 others have been infected by an outbreak of cholera in the city of Gao, northern Mali, a region occupied by hardline Islamist groups.
Islamist rebels smashed the entrance of a 15th-century Timbuktu mosque on Monday, while their Al-Qaeda allies in northern Mali cut off the key city of Gao by planting landmines all around it.
- Middle East & Africa
- United States
- Francois Hollande
- United Nations
- Burkina Faso
- African Union
- Foreign Ministry