"We touched on France's interests," Malian FM on tensions with France

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Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop revealed that tensions between Paris and Bamako were due to the fact that the Malian junta had "touched" France's interests by ruling out elections in February.

The minister further indicated that France is pushing for another set of rulers to govern Mali.

The minister had earlier blamed France for supporting coups in the past. In a video verified by the Malian authorities, the minister said that France had in the past claimed to have defended democracy in other countries by installing heads of state who had carried out coups.

Relations between France and its former colony have been strained since the army took power in Bamako in August 2020.

For the past six months, France has been reorganizing its military presence in Mali, leaving its three northernmost bases. The number of French troops in the Sahel, which stood at more than 5,000 last summer, has fallen and is planning to only keep between 2,500 to 3,000 troops by 2023.

Since January, tensions have increased with the adoption by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) of a battery of tough sanctions that include closing borders with Mali and placing the country under embargo.

The measures from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were a response to a junta proposal to stay in power for up to five years before staging elections -- despite an earlier commitment to hold the vote in February.

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