US mulls aid to French in Mali, including drones

12th January 2013, Comments 0 comments

The US military is looking at providing intelligence, aerial refueling tankers and other support to French forces in Mali, including surveillance drones, a US official said Friday.

Commanders were considering a range of options, including logistical backup and bolstering the sharing of intelligence, which would involve US surveillance drones, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

Backed by French air power, Mali on Friday unleashed an offensive against Islamist rebels who have seized control of the north of the West African country and are now threatening to push south.

President Francois Hollande confirmed in Paris that French forces were supporting an attack aimed at repelling the Al-Qaeda-linked radicals who have triggered international alarm with moves towards the capital Bamako.

Hollande gave no indication of the scale of French involvement, but said it would last "for as long as is necessary."

The American official told AFP that senior US officials were now engaged in discussions with their counterparts in the French capital and other allies on drawing up an action plan.

The American military has a network of air bases in Italy, Spain and elsewhere in the region that could provide refueling tankers and other assistance to the French.

Former colonial power France has warned that the Islamist rebels were seeking to transform the vast nation into a "terrorist state."

Earlier Friday, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian briefed his US counterpart Leon Panetta about the situation.

© 2013 AFP

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