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France has called a Monday meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the conflict in Mali, an official said Sunday.
"The Security Council will meet on Monday at 12 noon at France's request to discuss the situation in Mali," said a spokesman for the French UN mission.
Word of the high-level gathering came as French jets pounded the Islamist strongholds of Gao and Kidal in the north of the African country, forcing insurgents to flee on the third day of a game-changing intervention that has been met with relief by the population and spurred the region into action.
"Stopping the terrorists -- it's done," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said. "Today we started taking care of the terrorists' rear bases."
French President Francois Hollande said the intervention had halted the southward rebel advance seen as threatening the capital Bamako, but stressed France's mission was not over.
Senior officers from neighboring countries were expected in Bamako on Sunday to prepare for the arrival of the first troops of a multinational West African force.
The force has been authorised by the 15-nation Security Council to help the Malian government reclaim control of the north of the country. It will be commanded by General Shehu Abdulkadir of Nigeria, which will provide around 600 men.
Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal and Togo all pledged around 500 troops this weekend, while Benin has said it will send 300 soldiers.
It remained unclear when any of these forces would arrive and how quickly they could be deployed to the front line.
© 2013 AFP
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