EU, US ponder fight against Al-Qaeda in Africa

30th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

The United States and European Union powers gathered in Spain on Thursday to ponder how best to battle Al-Qaeda's offshoot in north Africa's Sahel region.

US Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano met with interior ministers from the G6 European Union nations -- Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain, a Spanish interior ministry spokeswoman said.

They planned to focus on "the fight against terrorism in the Sahel", said the spokeswoman for Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, who is also deputy prime minister.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is active in the Sahara desert and Sahel scrubland to the south -- an area nearly the size of Australia stretching from western Mauritania through Mali and Niger.

The meeting at the El Pardo palace just outside of Madrid "will also discuss organised crime" such as drug trafficking, prostitution and illegal immigration, the spokeswoman added.

The G6 represent three quarters of the EU population. The informal group was set up by Britain and France in 2003 to provide a forum for big EU nations to discuss issues of law and order and immigration.

Before the start of the meeting Rubalcaba and Napolitano signed an agreement to boost Spanish-US scientific and technological security cooperation, the interior ministry said in a statement.

"The agreement stresses the importance of protecting key infratructures to better protect the flow of goods and citizens between both countries," the ministry said.

Rubalcaba was scheduled to give a press conference at 1:00 pm (1100 GMT) at the end of the meeting.

Other participants included the EU's home affairs commissioner, Sweden's Cecilia Malmstrom, the bloc's counterterrorism coordinator, Belgium's Guilles de Kerchove, and US Deputy Attorney General James Cole.

© 2011 AFP

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