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New general takes over command of EU's training mission in Mali

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The EU's training mission in Mali (EUTM) handed over command to a new general.

The ceremony took place on Tuesday in the Malian capital, Bamako, and was attended by a number of European ambassadors as well as Malian military brass.

The move follows the announcement that Mali has accepted one thousand UN peacekeepers from nearby Chad.

"It is a great honour for me to serve in this mission, and I have great respect for the Malian people and the Malian soldiers. The mission is very critical", said Christian Riener, the new EUTM commander. 

The agreement comes as France announced a reduction in the deployment of troops in the country.

Hervé Bléjean, director general of the European Union Military Staff added: 

"We are working for the benefit of the G5 joint force, we are doing training, and we are also going to provide them with equipment. Within this framework, we have priority countries outside Mali, but I want to say that Mali remains our first priority, without a doubt". 

Paris has already closed down three army bases in Northern Mali and by next year its presence in the country will be reduced to about 3,000 soldiers from 5,100.

Mali is the epicentre of a jihadist insurgency that began in the north of the country in 2012 and spread three years later to neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.

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