French press hails Hollande for Mali operation

PARIS (AFP) - The French press on Monday hailed President Francois Hollande's decision to intervene in Mali, saying he had been left with little choice, but warned that France's end game was unclear.

"The French intervention in Mali was unavoidable," right-wing daily Le Figaro said in an editorial, noting that all sides of the French political spectrum had rallied around the decision.

"Abandoning Mali to the Islamists would have compromised all of West Africa and installed a haven for terrorism on the doors of Europe," it wrote.

Le Figaro said only France was in a position to intervene in Mali and that the decision was worth the increased threat of an extremist attack on French soil or abroad.

"The worry about the risk of an attack on national soil and the security of our expatriate countrymen cannot override the defence of our higher interests," it wrote.

Left-wing daily Liberation also praised Mr Hollande's decision, saying he was to be congratulated for stopping "the Taleban of the desert".

But it said Mr Hollande's government needed to do more to lay out its long-term plan for Mali.

"Hollande must explain the objectives of his intervention," Liberation said. "For the moment, the French government is being particularly vague about the objectives, extent and length of the operation."

Left-wing daily Le Monde also struck a note of caution, saying that while France was acting with the support of the international community, there was a danger of it being dragged into a long and damaging conflict.

"We know how these military interventions begin. We never know how they are going to end. Or rather, we know that many of them end up badly," it wrote.

Still, Le Monde said there had been no other option for France but to forge ahead with the intervention.

"War has its own logic, which can be one of a never-ending and increasing commitment...

"Mr. Hollande knows all this. He nevertheless took the risk of an intervention. He was right. He made the least bad choice, in the absence of a better one," Le Monde said.

"The alternative would have been to allow the jihadists to continue their descent toward the south and to threaten the capital Bamako."

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