France has been “dismoyed” by an announcement by Iran that it is considering a military campaign against Mali.
France’s foreign minister Laurent Fabius told reporters on Friday that Iran was considering launching a “large-scale military intervention” in Mali.
France’s defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Saturday that France was “deterred” by Iran not only for its “aggressive actions” but also for “its disregard for international law”.
“We are concerned about the escalation of tensions,” he said.
“France’s diplomatic and security team will continue to monitor developments closely and to take all necessary measures to defend our interests in Mali.”
A statement from the French foreign ministry, however, did not explicitly reject the report that Iran is considering sending a force into Mali.
The ministry said that it had been in contact with France’s military leadership.
“We remain deeply concerned by the aggressive actions by Iran,” the statement said.
The statement said that France would “examine all options” to defend itself and the French people.
Iran is “actively trying to undermine” the government of President Francois Bozize and “is trying to provoke and destabilise Mali”, it said.
Iran, which is seeking to dominate the oil-rich Central African Republic, is backed by the African Union and has been trying to destabilise the government there since it seized the capital Bangui in 2011.
Bozize is seeking a third term in office, but he has said he is not seeking revenge.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that he hoped that a military intervention in Mali would be “imminent”.
Iran’s foreign ministry in a statement on Saturday dismissed the French assessment as “inaccurate and premature”.
“The international community is aware of the serious developments in the Central African region, and it has warned against any intervention by Iran in Mali,” it said, according to Reuters.
“Iran is actively trying to destroy the country, destabilise it, and to prevent the people of Mali from taking power and building a modern democratic society.
We do not accept any kind of Iranian interference in Mali’s internal affairs.”
France has been under growing pressure from African governments to confront Iran’s growing influence in the region.
France has seen its oil revenues decline since the global financial crisis and has had to cut subsidies to African countries.
“If we do not stop Iran, they will destroy us,” said Malian leader Amadou Toure in a recent interview with Reuters news agency.