The French defence minister says a sandstorm is preventing Malian and French forces from entering the last major town 0f Kidal in northern Mali in their offensive against Islamist militants.
Kidal is the strongest home of the Islamist Fighters who are fighting to overthrow the Malian government and is very close to the Algerian border.
This statement by the minister seems to contradict earlier report that the joint forces have entered the town and did not faced any resistance from the Islamist Fighters.
French and Malian forces have been sweeping north, earlier taking some towns such as Hombori, Gao and Timbuktu with almost no resistance from the Islamist Fighters.
The retreating Islamist militants have been accused of destroying ancient manuscripts held in Timbuktu, but a senior official now says that most of the documents are safe and secured.
The French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday that France intended to leave Mali quickly, and it was up to African countries to take over the rest of the mission.
Several hundred soldiers from West African countries which include Niger and Chad are already in Mali to help the operation against the Islamist Fighters.
But the minister said further that enough progress had been temporarily halted by a sandstorm in the area, about 1,500km (930 miles) north-east of the capital Bamako.
The Islamist militants had taken advantage of a military coup in March last year to impose Sharia law in a number of cities in the north.
One of the influential rebel group in the north who broke away from the Islamist group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad reportedly told the AP that they will help restore law and order in the north if the joint forces secure the town.
The MNLA has also said it is prepared to work with the French to eradicate terrorist groups in the north but that it would not allow the return of the Malian army, which it accused of crimes against the civilian population.
Paris on Wednesday urged the Malian government to open discussions with the legitimate representatives of the people in the north as well as non-terrorist armed groups.
The French and Malian forces seem to have taken control of the airport but not completely the town as earlier report indicated.
Meanwhile, France has been pushing for the swift deployment of an African Union-backed force, the International Support Mission to Mali (Afisma), to take control of Malian towns.
On Tuesday, international donors meeting in Ethiopia pledged $455.53m (£289m) for Afisma and for other projects which the African Union say is a great effort from the international community and show of solidarity towards the Malian people.
But African Union leaders were quick to estimate the overall budget and said could be around $950m and more still need to be done to help the people of Mali.
Issaka Adams / NationalTurk Africa News