PARIS, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- France's "Serval" military operation in Mali has cost the government over 100 million euros (131 million U.S. dollars), French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian estimated on Tuesday.
"All these figures will be presented to the National Assembly's Finance Committee who shall be kept informed every week about the situation in Mali," Le Drian told RTL radio.
According to the minister, France's annual budget for external operations stands at 630 million euros.
Asked about a possible start to pull out troops in early March, Le Drian said it was "difficult" to fix an accurate schedule to send soldiers home.
"We are committed in liberating (Malian) territory. The beginning was very quick and we are now at the heart of the conflict. Fighting is violent in Adrar des Iforas, north Mali and we must completely liberate it," he said.
"If things go normally, we can start (troops' withdrawal) from the end of March," he said.
At the request of Malian authorities, France has poured 4,500 soldiers into the West African country to help oust Islamist rebels that seized Malian northern area and continued to push southward to threaten the Bamako-based transition government which is recognized by the international community.
France-led forces have retaken main northern cities of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu. But a spate of raids and suicide attacks launched by Malian rebels raised risks of French and African forces becoming entangled in a guerrilla war. (1 euro = 1.31 U.S. dollars)