Withdrawing troops from Mali not on agenda: French army chief

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PARIS, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- France had no intention of pulling its forces out from Mali after 13 of its soldiers were killed in the West African state, said General Francois Lecointre on Friday.

"I do not think that President Emmanuel Macron is considering a withdrawal while asking our allies to be more involved," the chief of staff of the French Armed Forces told Radio France Internationale (RFI).

At a joint news conference with NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday, Macron said he had ordered his government and military staff to examine "all the strategic options" for its military operation in the West African Sahel.

He also asked allies to have "a real discussion on concrete commitment in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel and the Levant."

"It is a strong call to our partners who must assess to what extent their involvement is absolutely essential to address this crisis," Lecointre said, warning that the combat to restore peace in Mali and neighbour West African countries would be long.

On Monday, two helicopters collided after being called in as reinforcement to support the ground soldiers tracking down militants in the Liptako region, near the border with Burkina Faso. All the soldiers aboard were killed in the incident, the country's biggest casualties in one operation over more than three decades.

There has been no gunfire from extremists on the helicopters, Lecointre said.

"The truth is that there was a collision during a very complex combat operation. The French army is telling the truth: we owe it to our soldiers and to the families of our dead colleagues," he added.

The general said the black boxes of the helicopters were recovered and being analysed to identify the exact causes of the accident. Enditem

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