France appoints new envoy to conflict-torn Mali

France on Thursday appointed a new ambassador to Mali, the foreign ministry said, amid a French-backed military intervention against Islamist rebels in the west African nation.

Gilles Huberson will replace Christian Rouyer, foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said, adding that it was in the framework of a routine reshuffle of French diplomatic posts in Africa.

But diplomatic sources in Mali said Rouyer, 63, reportedly fell out with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. He was an outspoken advocate for the French military intervention and had been posted there since 2011.

He was popular with the Malian authorities and among political circles and civil society.

He repeatedly drew attention during the rule of president Amadou Toumani Toure, overthrown by a coup in March last year, to the danger of the situation in northern Mali, before Islamists seized control of the region in June and July last year.

France has at least 4,000 soldiers in Mali.