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AU calls on Nato for Mali force

09 January 2013, 08:06

Ottawa - African Union chair Thomas Boni Yayi on Tuesday called for Nato troops to join African Union forces in a mission to stabilise Mali following a coup last year.

"Nato should play a part [in Mali], and the African force would lead the way as was done by Nato in Afghanistan," Yayi, who is also Benin's president, told a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Harper, however, said: "The Canadian government is not considering a direct military mission" in Mali.

Canada's defence minister, Peter MacKay, had previously suggested that Canadian military trainers could be sent to Mali to bolster its army in a fight with Islamist rebels.

Harper said only that Ottawa would continue to provide humanitarian aid and work diplomatically with its Nato allies and "friends in Africa" to try to stabilise Mali.

"Obviously we are very concerned about the situation, and the development of essentially an entire terrorist region is of grave concern to everybody in the international community," Harper told the press conference.

The UN Security Council last month approved sending an African-led military force to reconquer the north of Mali from Islamist militants.

The UN resolution gave the African-led force an initial one-year mandate to use "all necessary measures" to help Mali's government take back territory seized in the wake of a March coup from "terrorist, extremist and armed groups."

But the 15-member council said military force can only be used after political efforts had been exhausted. It insisted that the military plans would have to be refined and approved before any offensive started.

Al-Qaeda linked groups and other Islamists that have taken over regions in northern Mali have imposed a brutal form of shari' ah law.

In response, West African nations have put together a force of some 3 300 troops ready to go to Mali to help rebuild the country's army and support a military operation, which is not expected to start before September next year.



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