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Major military operations in Mali 'coming to an end': PM

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Mali's Prime Minister Diango Cissoko said Tuesday that major military operations against Islamist rebels in the country were coming to an end.

After meeting in Paris with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, he also vowed that Malian soldiers responsible for rights abuses during the operations would be held to account.

"The situation is much better than a few weeks ago. Large-scale military operations are coming to an end. What remains is to secure the liberated areas," Cissoko said.

Fabius said "difficult operations" remained in the country, where the French military launched an intervention last month that ousted the rebels from cities they had seized last year in Mali's vast desert north.

"We must ensure the integrity of the reconquest of Mali. As cities are reclaimed, Malian and African troops must ensure they are secured," Fabius said.

Cissoko acknowledged reports of widespread human rights abuses by Malian soldiers as they secure the north and promised a response.

"Regarding the abuses that would have been carried out by certain elements of the Malian army, these abuses, once they are proven, must be punished. Soldiers should behave in an exemplary manner," he said.

Fabius also said the abuses were "unacceptable".

"If they have taken place they must be punished," he said.

cf/mm/lc

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130219/major-military-operations-mali-coming-end-pm