UPDATE 1-France calls for international observers in Mali

(Adds details, background)

PARIS, Jan 29 (Reuters) - France favours a quick deployment of international monitors to Mali to ensure human rights are not abused, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Tuesday, after reports of reprisals in areas recaptured from Islamist rebels.

French and Malian troops over the past two weeks have driven Islamist insurgents out of some areas in the north of the West Africa state that they occupied last year.

Malian troops have been accused by international human rights groups of carrying out revenge killings of suspected Islamist rebels and sympathisers in retaken areas. There have also been cases of looting and attacks on such individuals and their properties in the liberated cities of Gao and Timbuktu.

"The French government is ... in favour of rapidly deploying international observers to ensure that human rights are respected (in Mali)," Ayrault said at a meeting with lawmakers.

"Our troops have been told to show extreme caution in responding to acts of violence. I point out though that the International Committee of the Red Cross has not so far confirmed acts that have been reported on this subject by some non-governmental organisations," he added.

Ayrault said that France had also reminded Mali's authorities about the importance of respecting human rights.

Human Rights Watch raised concerns on Jan. 19 about violence in Mali, including alleged killings by Malian forces of civilians in the central town of Niono and the targeting of Tuaregs and Arabs perceived to have supported the rebels.

The FIDH human rights federation has also warned against the risk of summary executions and other violence by Malian soldiers as they regain control of territory with the help of France.

The organisation has called for an independent investigation commission to be set up and said that those found to be responsible should be sanctioned.

For their part, Islamist rebels imposed severe sharia (Islamic law) in areas of the north they seized, authorising stoning for adulterers and amputations for thieves while forcing women to don veils. (Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Mark Heinrich)