French president to visit Mali Saturday
President Francois Hollande will visit Mali on Saturday to express his support for French troops fighting in the former colony and to push for their speedy replacement by African forces.
"I am going to Mali to express to our soldiers all our support, encouragement and pride," Hollande said Friday after the announcement of his visit.
"I'm also going to ensure that African forces come and join us as quickly as possible and to tell them we need them for this international force."
Hollande will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Development Minister Pascal Canin.
The trip follows a three-week military intervention in the former colony in which French forces have recaptured large areas of northern Mali from Islamist groups.
Hollande will travel first to Timbuktu, where according to the Malian presidency he will meet with troops and visit the 700-year-old mud mosque of Djingareyber, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the Ahmed Baba library, where Islamists burned priceless ancient manuscripts before fleeing.
Hollande and interim Malian president Dioncounde Traore, who will visit Timbuktu together, will then travel to the capital Bamako for a working lunch, Traore's office said on Twitter.
© 2013 AFP