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France appoints new ambassador to Mali

French foreign ministry confirmed Thursday that it had appointed Gilles Huberson as the new ambassador to Mali amid a French military operation to help the African country oust Islamist rebels.

Huberson, a foreign affairs advisor, will replace current envoy Christian Rouyer who has held the post since March 2011, according to the foreign ministry.

Appointing Huberson as France's top diplomat to Mali was within a framework of adjustment of some diplomatic positions in Africa, the foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said, adding that the ministry also proposed Jean Felix Paganon as ambassador to Senegalese authorities.

Diplomatic sources in the West African nation said Rouyer had reportedly fell out with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. He was an outspoken advocate for the French military intervention in Mali and remained popular among local political and civil societies.

France has more than 4,000 troops on the ground in Mali, 1,200 of whom are currently deployed in the northeast, cleaning up the rest after driving out most of the Islamist rebels from the area.

On Wednesday, French President Francois Hollande said the sovereignty of "almost the entire territory" of Mali would be restored in "a few days" while French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told French parliament French troops will start to pull out of Mali from the end of April.

[Source: Xinhua, Paris, 21Mar13]

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