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MALIAN CONFLICT

Spain considers logistical support for France in Mali

EU meeting on Thursday to pave way for training mission in face of jihadist insurgency

French soldiers arriving from  Chad, prepare at the 101 military airbase in Bamako on January 14, before their deployment in the north of Mali.
French soldiers arriving from Chad, prepare at the 101 military airbase in Bamako on January 14, before their deployment in the north of Mali. ISSOUF SANOGO (AFP)

French President François Hollande has called for “political and logistical support” for his country’s military intervention in Mali in the face of assaults by jihadists linked to Al Qaeda.

Political backing from Spain has already been forthcoming: last Friday the Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing its “solidarity and backing for the action taken by France,” noting that intervention to prevent the Malian government from being overthrown had been carried out with “scrupulous respect for the resolutions of the UN Security Council.”

However, Spain is proving more reticent on the logistical aspect. The government has studied the possibility of sending a transport plane with 30 personnel to help with the deployment of French and multinational African forces. But diplomatic sources said that Spain would prefer to follow Europe’s lead and may wait for the outcome of an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Thursday before committing to military support.

The Danish parliament was due to vote Tuesday over contributing a C-130 transport aircraft to the Franco-Malian alliance while La Libre Belgique reported that Brussels is considering redeploying a C-130 based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or sending a medical team to Bamako’s aid.

The UK and Canada have pledged three US-built C-17 transport planes to carry materiel from France to Mali.

The ministerial meeting in Brussels, which was called on Monday, is expected to reiterate continental backing for France’s intervention and to give the green light to the EUTM mission to Mali, which will consist in training local forces. The mandate, agreed in December, will last 15 months and involve 200 instructors and a 300-strong protection force. The aim is to drive out the combined Islamist and Tuareg forces which took over northern Mali last year in the face of scant opposition from the politically unstable country’s armed forces. Spain has offered to provide 30 military instructors.

There are currently no plans to evacuate the 105 Spanish citizens residing in Mali.

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