Europe concerned over Sahel insecurity: German minister

7th January 2012, Comments 0 comments

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle Saturday said Europe has become deeply concerned about the volatile security situation in the Sahel region caused by the rise of Al-Qaeda's north African branch, in an interview with an Algerian newspaper.

"The security situation in the Sahel is a source of major concern for us and our European Union partners," Westerwelle told the daily Liberte.

"That is why we are working in Brussels on a common strategy for security and development in the Sahel."

Germany's top diplomat is due to arrive in Algiers on Saturday for talks with top Algerian officials as part of his visit to north Africa which will include stops in Libya and Tunisia.

The EU recently launched a strategy for the Sahel with a budget of 150 million euros ($190 million) aimed at encouraging security and development in particular in Mauritania, Mali and Niger.

The Sahel region including Algeria has been plagued by a growing number of attacks and kidnappings, especially of Westerners, by militants of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

About 12 Europeans are currently being held by AQIM and another dissident group.

A flood of arms including heavy weapons has also spread through the region following the collapse of Moamer Khadafi's regime in Libya.

Westerwelle told the paper the EU will give Libya support by "financing the destruction of landmines and detonators and helping to secure its arsenal of chemical weapons in order to reduce the potential risks to the region."

© 2012 AFP

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