PARIS, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- The ongoing French military intervention in Mali has put French President Francois Hollande in the spotlight, providing a sound opportunity for the first Socialist head of state since 1995 to stamp his authority in the diplomatic arena.
Elected last May, the self-styled "normal" president vowed to break with his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy's "bling-bling" style.
Initially seen by some politicians as a fresher in foreign relations, Hollande said he was neither fighting for France's influence in the world nor for its own interests, but in the name of values and principles of "freedom and democracy."
Despite a shining educational background, the 58-year-old president has never held a national-level government post - a fact that has raised questions over his ability to flex France's diplomatic muscles and achieve foreign policy successes as his predecessor.
After his first eight months at the Elysee Palace marked by series of diplomatic moves, Hollande said he would focus in 2013 "on the national field" with one visit to the country's regions per week on average "to reflect, persuade, explain and make other decisions."
However, the outbreak of Mali crisis will no doubt announced the challenges in foreign policies faced by the French president has just begun in the New Year.
CHALLENGE IN MALI
In contrast to a superactive Sarkozy who scored foreign policy successes in Libya with a campaign to oust former leader Muammar Gaddafi, Hollande was initially criticised as being indecisive, even compromising in Mali.
But after giving the go-ahead for the French military to intervene in Mali last Friday, the operation has helped him establish a new image as a brave, decisive leader.
To Hollande, Malian conflict and growing terrorist menace against French expatriates. The president supported a UN-backed military operation to end the crisis in northern Mali, as he believed that Islamists' threats to harm France's interests and nationals is a "way that will not weigh (on the country's commitments in Mali)."
The sudden military intervention in Mali, which took only half a day to set in motion, is seen as a political crucible for Hollande in ruling foreign relation.
Hollande has so far sent 2,500 troops to stop Islamist rebels from moving to the south of Mali. Now countries of the west Africa's regional bloc ECOWAS are preparing to deploy troops in Mali with the United States and European Union ready to provide logistic support.
No doubt, the Mali intervention will be a real test for Hollande who wants to show the world his capability and confidence in handing foreign relations.