French army 'to stay where Africa wishes'
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French troops to leave Senegal
French makes inroads in Africa
Dakar - France will maintain a military presence in African states that wish it to do so, French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said following a decision by Senegal to take back control of military bases.
"Concerning the military presence, France will be present where African states wish it to be," he said on Sunday night on public television after holding talks with Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade.
As Senegal marked 50 years of independence on Sunday, Wade announced the country was asserting its sovereignty by taking back French military bases, a symbolic move to be cemented after talks with its former colonial ruler.
"Senegal has asserted its sovereignty over the bases, in accordance with the various positions expressed by (French) President Nicolas Sarkozy..." said Hortefeux.
He said during his talks with Wade, the Senegalese president agreed that discussions could begin on the future of the bases.
Despite the decision, the act of taking back the bases does not indicate anti-French sentiment and Hortefeux said "naturally the French (military) and civilians, and all Europeans, will be welcome in Senegal".
"This meeting was an occasion to recall the historical links, both amicable and affectionate, which unite Senegal and France. My presence today at the anniversary of independence bears concrete testimony to this."
The historic step announced by Wade has no marked effect in the short term, but is very symbolic for a country branded by 350 years of French presence.
The first French colony south of the Sahara, Senegal hosts one of three permanent French military bases in Africa with 1 200 men based in Dakar. The other permanent bases are in Libreville and Djibouti.
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