by Staff Writers
Ottawa (AFP) Dec 31, 2012
Canada is considering sending troops to Mali to help train the west African nation's army as it seeks to take back the Islamist-controlled north, Defense Minister Peter MacKay said Monday.
"We are constantly keeping track of the situation not only in Mali but in other parts of the world and the region," MacKay told troops at a Canadian military base in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
"We are not at a point where we can be making an announcement. As you know training is something that the Canadian forces are particularly adept at doing."
It was not clear if any Canadian involvement would form part of a previously announced European Union mission to send some 250 officers to train combat units and help restructure Mali's weakened army.
French general Francois Lecointre was chosen last week to head the EU mission, which aims to train some 2,600 Malian troops near Segou, 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of the capital Bamako.
In addition to the EU training mission, the UN Security Council has approved the deployment of an African-led military intervention force without giving a precise timetable.
Armed Islamist groups, some with Al-Qaeda links, seized northern Mali in the wake of a March coup in Bamako, and have imposed a brutal form of Islamic sharia law.
Mali's new Prime Minister Diango Cissoko called Thursday for military intervention by an African force to help take back the Islamist-controlled north "as quickly as possible."
UN chief Ban Ki-moon recently pressed Mali's government to hold free elections as soon as possible as part of preparations for the intervention force.
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