Belgium to offer France logistical backup in Mali
Belgium is set to contribute two C-130 transport planes and a medivac helicopter to back up France's offensive against Islamist fighters in Mali, Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said Tuesday.
A decision to offer "logistical" support will be taken at a special cabinet meeting on Mali later Tuesday to discuss a French request for backup, Reynders said on RTBF radio.
With France short on troop transport planes, Belgium was likely to offer a C-130 that is already in the region and a second that could be on the scene Wednesday. The helicopter will be flown in next week.
In all the Belgian contribution would entail the dispatch of 80 soldiers.
Reynders said the international community had been slow to respond to the crisis in Mali but that it was important now to look at an exit strategy to avoid getting bogged down as in Afghanistan.
That is why it will be key to hand over as soon as possible to an international force made up of regional troops while participating in a European Union mission to train and restructure the Malian army, the minister said.
EU ministers are to hold an emergency meeting this week on Mali, probably on Thursday, during which they may announce the official launch of the 400- to 500-strong mission.
© 2013 AFP