By EDITH M. LEDERER
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia’s foreign minister is defending the Mali government’s right to hire a private Russian military company to help fight terrorists. He accuses French troops in the country of failing to get rid of them and scolding the European Union for demanding that the Russians leave. Sergei Lavrov said the company has a “legitimate” right to be in the West African nation because it was invited by the transitional government, and the Russian government is not involved. France and Germany have both objected to the presence of mercenaries from the Wagner Group, which reportedly is linked to the Kremlin, in Mali, which also hosts a U.N. peacekeeping mission.