Belgium offers C-130s, helicopters to France's Mali campaign

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Belgium offered two C-130 transport planes and two helicopters on Tuesday to back up France's offensive against Islamist fighters in Mali.

"Belgium is providing logistical support to the fight against terrorism," Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo said after a special cabinet meeting on events in Mali.

Defence Minister Pieter De Crem said the C-130s "will be operational the day after tomorrow in the morning."

An A-109 medivac helicopter and a second helicopter to evacuate the wounded will be sent later.

In all the Belgian contribution would entail the dispatch of 75 soldiers.

Earlier Foreign Minister Didier 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 emergency talks on Mali on Thursday, during which they are expected to announce the official launch of the 400- to 500-strong mission and discuss financial help for an African force.

© 2013 AFP

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