Paris had hoped to move the troops from its former colony Mali and other bases to target Islamist groups operating between southern Libya, northern Chad and northern Niger. It fears the fighters could use the region as a base for wider attacks.
But it paused the plans after deadly clashes broke out between Mali government troops and Tuareg MNLA separatists in the north over the weekend.
France originally sent troops into Mali after Al Qaeda-linked Islamists took advantage of a Tuareg-led rebellion and seized control of the country’s north in 2012. A French-led military operation, known as Serval, drove them back last year.
After that intervention drove the Islamists from major cities and towns, Mali’s government and separatist groups signed a deal in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou to hold talks about greater autonomy for the north, but little progress has been made since last year with tensions gradually rising.
A French military source said no new date had been set for the broader West African deployment, originally scheduled to be completed by the end of May.
At least eight Malian soldiers and eight civilians including six government officials were killed when rebels attacked the regional governor’s office in the northern town of Kidal on Saturday.