The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

France wants UN vote next month on peacekeepers for Mali, as fighting drags on

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PARIS - France's foreign minister is pushing for a U.N. vote next month to approve peacekeepers for the West African country of Mali.

The peacekeepers would take over from French and African forces currently fighting Islamic extremists who had taken control of northern Mali.

France, Mali's former colonial ruler, started the campaign in January, fearing the region was becoming a terrorist haven. But the fighting has grown tougher and French forces aren't ready to pull out yet.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on France-Info radio Thursday that he hopes that in April "we will have a decision in the United Nations to put in place peacekeepers."

He stressed the importance of stabilizing Mali's weak government and army and holding elections in July.

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