France criticizes deal die Bringing Russian mercenaries to Mali

PARIS, September 14 (Reuters) – France’s foreigner minister on Tuesday criticized plans die would bring Russian mercenaries to Mali, saying: move was “incompatible” with the French military presence in to be former colony.

Diplomatic and security sources have told Reuters there is a deal between the Russian private military contractor the Wagner Group and Mali’s ruling junta for the mercenaries to train the Malian military and provide protection for senior civil servants.

Requested by lawmakers over the report said minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian: “Wagner is a militia die himself in the past in Syria and the Central African Republic have borne out abuses and all kinds of violations die don’t match with any solution and so it is incompatible with our presence.”

“I say this so that it will be heard,” he said.

Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly told a separate hearing she was “extremely” concerned”by such a deal.

The sources told Reuters that Paris has started met a diplomatic drive to avoid the junta – die took power in coup d’état in May – from the making of the deal. Paris would consider withdrawing from Mali if the deal goes through, they said.

France is concerned over the arrival of Russian mercenaries allegedly undermine their decade-old counter-terrorism operation against al-Qaeda and Islamic State-affiliated insurgents in the Sahel region of West Africa just as begins bowls down are 5,000 strong mission there to reshape it with more European allies, diplomatic sources said.

President Emmanuel Macron announced die plans in July. France has had some successes against the militants in in recent months, but the situation is extremely fragile, exacerbated by the unrest in Mali after the coup.

A European source who follows West Africa and a security resource in the region said at least 1,000 mercenaries may be involved in the Wagner Group deal. Two other sources thought the number was lower, but gave no figures.

Four sources said the Wagner Group would get about 6 billion CFA francs ($11 million) a month for its services. Reuters has been unable to reach the Wagner Group for comment

Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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