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Published: Monday May 12, 2014 MYT 3:25:02 AM
Updated: Monday May 12, 2014 MYT 3:25:02 AM

France offers to host African security summit on Boko Haram

BAKU (Reuters) - France has offered to host a summit with Nigeria and its neighbours focused on Islamist militant group Boko Haram, President Francois Hollande said on Sunday.

Global outrage over the Boko Haram's abduction of 200 schoolgirls last month has focused attention on the group, which has destabilised large swathes of northeast Nigeria and its neighbours.

"With Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, I have proposed to hold a meeting with the countries bordering Nigeria," Hollande said during a visit to the Azeri capital of Baku.

"If the countries agree, it should take place next Saturday" in Paris, Hollande added. His aides said that the leaders of Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger might attend. Britain, the European Union and the United States would likely be represented as well.

France, Britain, the United States and other countries have said they were sending experts to help Nigeria track down and free the schoolgirls.

Nigeria's army has mobilised two divisions to hunt for the schoolgirls as Jonathan's government has faced criticism for not responding more quickly to the abductions.

A French priest was released in December after being kidnapped the previous month in northern Cameroon, a region where Boko Haram is known to operate. The group kidnapped a French family of seven on holiday in northern Cameroon in February 2013 and released them the following April.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; additional reporting by John Irish in Paris; writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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