French soldiers listen to instructions in a hangar at the
Malian army air base in Bamako. REUTERS/Joe Penney
France plans to increase its troops in Mali to 2500 in
the days ahead and is working to speed up the deployment of
West African troops for a campaign against Islamist rebels, the
A defence ministry spokesman told Reuters troops would be
sent to bolster the 600 already deployed.
Al Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels launched a counter-offensive
in Mali after four days of French air strikes on their
northern strongholds, seizing the central town of Diabaly and
promising to drag France into a brutal Afghanistan-style war.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said EU foreign ministers
would meet this week to try to accelerate the arrival of a
training mission for the Malian army.
An EU diplomat in Brussels said the meeting was likely to
take place on Thursday.
"International political backing is almost unanimous," Fabius
told a news conference, saying Paris had been assured of the
full backing of its partners including logistical support.
"France will not be alone in this mission," he said.
He said that preparations were being stepped up for a West
African force initially planned for around September which
should include some 600 soldiers from Nigeria, around 500
each from Niger, Burkina Faso, Togo and Senegal and 300 from
Britain has supplied two cargo planes for France's use and
Fabius said Germany was offering medical, humanitarian and
The United States has offered help with transport,
communications and intelligence while Belgium and Denmark
were also helping with transport.
Fabius said he had spoken to EU foreign policy chief
Catherine Ashton who told him an exceptional meeting would be
held this week to discuss the situation in Mali.
"We will take decisions allowing the acceleration of the
deployment of the European advice and training mission for
the Mali army," he said.