Mali crisis: France hosts talks on post-war development

French soldiers in northern Mali (1 March 2013) France wants to withdraw it troops from Mali next month

France is hosting talks on Mali's post-war development, two months after sending troops to battle Islamist militants in the north of the country.

Malian and French officials in Lyon are discussing how to ensure militants do not launch fresh attacks on civilians.

As France prepares to pull out its troops from Mali, it says improving living conditions are also a priority.

France intervened after saying the al-Qaeda-linked militants threatened to march on the capital, Bamako.

Islamist groups took over major cities, including Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu, and imposed strict Islamic law in the aftermath of a coup in March 2012.

Since the French-led intervention began, this territory has been recaptured with the help of Malian, Chadian and other African troops.

But fighting is still continuing in the northern mountains of the country.

The BBC's Mamadou Moussa Ba in Lyon says France is keen to support the country's institutions and has brought together local officials from around the West African nation.

According to Pascal Canfin, France's development minister, priorities will be given to restarting projects to improve the living conditions of local people in health, rural development, water and sanitation.

"One city out of three in France is twined or has closed ties with towns in Mali, so the co-operation between France and these local authorities is key to French strategy," he told the BBC.

France wants to withdraw its estimated 4,000 troops from Mali next month.

Troops from several West African countries have been deploying to Mali to take over from the French-led mission in the run-up to elections due in July.

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