[Updated at 1:29 p.m. ET] Islamist rebels would have taken Mali's capital had France's military not intervened in the African nation in the last few days, French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday.
"If we had not taken up our responsibility and if on Friday morning we had not acted with this intervention, where would Mali be today?" he asked.
The French defense minister told CNN that up to 800 troops are in Mali to help Malian forces in an offensive against Islamist militants, and that up to 1,700 total French forces – including the 800 in Mali – are involved in a variety of capacities, such as offering logistical support from various French military bases across Africa.
Hollande, speaking on a visit to the United Arab Emirates, said France intends to "make way as quickly as possible" for an African force.
Read more about France's military intervention, which began Friday.