(Bloomberg) -- France and its international partners won’t stay in Mali should Russian mercenaries of the Wagner group be allowed to operate in the West African country, the French Foreign Affairs Minister said.

“An intervention by a group of this kind in Mali would be incompatible with the actions of France and international partners in the Sahel,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told parliamentarians during a hearing in Paris on Tuesday. “To make it clear.”

On Monday, Reuters reported that the Wagner group was close to a deal in Mali, a former French colony where France has a military presence. 

Le Drian called Wagner, which is headed by a confidante of President Vladimir Putin, a “private militia made up of former military men” and criticized its actions in Iraq, Syria and the Central African Republic

President Emmanuel Macron has said he would reduce the number of French troops in the Sahel region while remaining a contributor to a European force there named “Takuba.” 

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