Mali’s foreign minister has called on the UN to withdraw its peacekeeping force from his country “without delay”.

Abdoulaye Diop accused the force, Minusma, of having “become a part of the problem in fuelling intercommunal tensions”. He was addressing the UN Security Council.

Minusma has more than 13,000 troops. Its decade-old mission has failed to stop the spread of jihadist violence.

Russian Wagner mercenaries are now assisting Mali’s military rulers.

Western officials have accused Wagner of human rights abuses in Ukraine and parts of Africa, and last month the US announced sanctions on Ivan Maslov, whom it described as Wagner’s top official in Mali.

Wagner has not commented on the Western allegations and its activities in Mali and other parts of Africa remain shrouded in secrecy.

Minister Diop’s criticism of Minusma followed earlier Malian objections to France’s long-standing involvement in Mali. The alliance with France, the former colonial power, collapsed last year.

Mr Diop spoke of a “crisis of confidence between the Malian authorities and Minusma” and said “the Malian government asks for the withdrawal without delay of Minusma”.

Minusma’s mandate is due to end on 29 June, but UN chief Antonio Guterres has recommended that the mission be reconfigured to focus on a few limited priorities.

The UN currently lists military contingents from Chad, Bangladesh and Egypt as the biggest in the force.

When asked about Mr Diop’s remarks on Friday the UN special envoy to Mali, El-Ghassim Wane, said “we stand to be guided by whatever decision the [Security] Council may take”.

But he added that without the host country’s consent “operating in a specific country would be extremely challenging, if not impossible”.

A report by the UN high commissioner for human rights accused the Malian armed forces and “foreign security personnel” of having killed more than 500 people during an operation in the village of Moura, in central Mali, in March last year. The governments of Mali and Russia both condemned that report.

BBC/Simeon Ugbodovon

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