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France to host Sahel summit

France to host Sahel summit

Macron was careful to note that France is not in the Sahel to protect its own interests, but rather in the broader fight against terrorism that includes the G5 nations, the USA troops, and the new P3S launch in partnership with Germany, as well as United Nations peacekeepers, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States.

The summit comes as France's military presence, which began in Mali in 2012, is being questioned by many in the region who chafe at the increasingly prominent role played by a former colonial power.

According to United Nations figures, jihadist attacks in Burkina, Mali and Niger past year left 4,000 dead.

The presidents of those three countries, as well as those of Burkina Faso and Mauritania, were present for the talks.

The violence is spreading most rapidly in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, which endure routine assaults from extremist groups seeking to gain territory, analysts say, and threatens to destabilize a region with one of the youngest populations on Earth.

The Iraqi parliament voted on January 5 to oust foreign forces, including some 5,200 American troops, who have helped local troops beat back the Islamic State group, angering Trump and throwing worldwide operations there in doubt.

Visiting the region last month, Macron complained of a lack of "clear political condemnation of anti-French feelings" on the ground, saying he was loath to send soldiers to countries where their presence was not "clearly wanted".

"The priority is Islamic State in the Grand Sahara".

"They agreed on the interest in intensifying ministerial visits in both countries in the course of this year", the statement said.

"We have no choice, we need results".

French troops were hailed as heroes in 2013 for helping to prevent the insurgency from reaching the capital Bamako. At least 160 soldiers were killed in two attacks carried out by extremist groups on remote military outposts.

Pau, the location of the summit, is home to a helicopter regiment which saw several of its French soldiers killed in a helicopter collision in Mali in November.

Rights groups, however, have also said that military operations are what is causing increased conflict.

Another 2,000 soldiers conduct training missions in some 40 African countries and take part in cooperative operations, in particular with France's Operation Barkhane in Mali, to which they provide mainly logistical assistance. There have been mixed signals from Washington that it could pull out.

Mr Macron said he would try to persuade Trump to stay, saying that "if the Americans made a decision to leave Africa, this would be very bad news for us".