France will help Africa fight piracy, terrorism: Sarkozy

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France will help African countries combat piracy, terrorism and drug trafficking, President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday, because Africa "cannot cope on its own."

Sarkozy made the pledge at the end of a two-day Africa-France summit in the Riviera city of Nice aimed at recalibrating France's relations with the continent.

"On all of these issues, we will work together," Sarkozy told the 38 African leaders at the closing ceremony.

The president recalled that France has set aside 300 million euros (365 million dollars) to train 12,000 African soldiers for peacekeeping on the continent.

"There are crises on the continent," Sarkozy said, and Africa "cannot cope on its own."

"Terrorism is poisoning the Sahel region," he said.

The president noted that east African countries did not have the naval forces needed to root out piracy off the coast of Somalia and said that France could help.

France is a key member of the European Union anti-piracy mission Atalante launched in December 2008 in a bid to secure one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

Sarkozy pledged French support to combat Islamist extremists in the Sahel region and drug trafficking in west Africa, now a major hub for cocaine headed to Europe.

© 2010 AFP

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