People gather as Malian soldiers arrive in the city of Diabaly on January 21, 2013. French and Malian troops today recaptured the Malian towns of Diabaly and Douentza from Islamist fighters, France's defence minister said. French and Malian troops earlier today entered Diabaly, which has been the theatre of air strikes and fighting since being seized by Islamists a week ago, an AFP journalist witnessed.

Mali President Dioncounda Traore announced Tuesday plans to hold elections by July.

Traore said he was determined "to organize as soon as possible...or before July 31, 2013, clean elections that are transparent and credible," according to Al Arabiya News.

He thanked the "entire international community" while speaking in the capital of Ethiopia, as his country received $455.5 million in pledges at a donor conference for military operations against Islamist militants in northern Mali and humanitarian aid.

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"I would like to reiterate our commitment to lead the transition in Mali with a single agenda — the recovery of the occupied areas but also, and especially, the return of a normal constitutional situation to Mali," he said.

French-led troops are now battling Islamists to secure Kidal, the last major town under militant control, reported CNN. Forces seized the town's airport Tuesday night, and the French military is focusing on recapturing other airports, while Malian troops are taking over cities.

The French Defense Ministry has called Traore's transition plan a crucial step forward.

"France welcomes the unanimous adoption by Mali's parliament of the road map for the transition, which makes provision for the holding of elections and the opening of negotiations with the north," the ministry said in a statement.

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