| Global Times | 2013-1-16 1:13:01
By Yang Jingjie
The Chinese embassy in Mali Tuesday told the Global Times that China has helped dozens of its nationals travel to safer places but currently has no plan to evacuate all Chinese from the war-torn country, as France stepped up the fight against the rebels in its former colony.
Paris has poured hundreds of soldiers into Mali and carried out air raids since Friday in the northern half of the country, which was seized last year by an Islamist alliance, Reuters reported.
AFP Tuesday quoted defense sources as saying that France is planning to deploy a total of 2,500 troops in Mali. African countries are also sending in troops, with Nigeria promising its first battalion bound for Mali on Tuesday.
Guo Yeling, head of the political section of the embassy, told the Global Times via the phone that the current situation does not pose a severe threat to the security of Chinese nationals and enterprises, so an evacuation is not necessary at the moment.
According to the embassy, there are around 2,000 Chinese workers and overseas Chinese in Mali, and around 20 Chinese enterprises operating in the country.
The French army carried out overnight air strikes on the town of Diabali, which was seized by Islamists on Monday in an advance into the government-held south.
Guo said 26 Chinese workers from two Chinese enterprises in Niono, about 50 kilometers south of Diabali, were transferred to a safety zone in Segou late on Monday with the help of the embassy.
The plants of another two Chinese enterprises, which are located around 100 kilometers south of the rebel-seized town, are still conducting normal operations with nearly 300 workers, said Guo, adding that the embassy will maintain close contact with them.
French forces have, since Friday, been supporting an offensive by Malian government troops against al-Qaeda-affiliated militant Islamist rebels which have controlled the north of the vast country since April 2012.
China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Monday that China denounces the Malian rebels' latest offensive and urged the early implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2085, which emphasizes the importance of political dialogue and the pursuit of negotiations, and authorized the deployment of an African-led force to respond to the growing security threats on the ground.
Wang Bingquan, a member of the Overseas Chinese Association in Mali, told the Global Times Tuesday that all the Chinese nationals in northern Mali had evacuated from the area last year, and Chinese enterprises had only been involved in a few projects in the north before the insurgency engulfed the area.
Currently, Chinese enterprises are still working on telecommunications and infrastructure construction projects taking place in the government-controlled south, most of which are near the border with Guinea.
But Wang said some projects had been affected due to the deteriorating security situation.
An airport expansion project in the capital, run by a Chinese company, ceased operations following the coup, even though 80 percent of the project had been completed.
"There were 300 Chinese workers in that project, but now only five remain," Wang said.
Agencies contributed to this story
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