Page last updated at 16:38 GMT, Tuesday, 15 January 2013

French action in Mali praised by EU's Ashton.

The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs has welcomed the intervention by French troops in tackling a rebel insurgency in Mali.

Speaking during an emergency debate with MEPs on 15 January 2013, she said the country had witnessed "horrific abuses of human rights" since the rebellion in the north of the country in April 2012.

She added that the EU was directly affected by instability in the region, claiming that northern Mali was being used as a base for smuggling drugs and weapons into Europe.

French President Francois Hollande says more French troops are to be deployed in Mali to support the 750 already in the country countering an Islamist insurgency.

France began its intervention on 11 January with the aim of halting the rebel advance south towards the capital, and has backing from the UN Security Council.

At least 11 Malian soldiers and a French helicopter pilot have died in Mali since the intervention began. More than 100 militants are reported to have been killed.

Belgian socialist MEP Véronique de Keyser warned against calling the rebels "Islamists", saying they were "criminals and terrorists," but insisted that the intervention was vital to prevent "peril across Africa".

However Bruno Gollnisch, from the French National Front, said the EU should take responsibility for "arming the jihadists", by supplying arms to rebel groups involved in the Arab Spring.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.

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