French President Francois Hollande has received a warm welcome in Mali. His visit comes three weeks after French troops entered the country. He has pledged his continued support.
The release of 28 local officials and soldiers held in a rebel stronghold in the north of Mali has been demanded by the government and the country's former colonial power France. The UN is trying to negotiate.
Calm has been restored to the Malian city of Timbuktu after government and French troops repelled an Islamist rebel attack. At least one Malian soldier and three rebels are reported to have been killed in the fighting.
Mali's second round parliamentary election has ended with low voter turnout possibly due to attacks earlier in the week. Jihadists claimed responsibility for the killings in Kidal of two UN peacekeepers from Senegal.
Islamist militants have launched an attack on Timbuktu in northern Mali, penetrating the city center. French forces have deployed to help the Malian military repel the Islamist fighters.