Mali mission could be prolonged

The defence minister will not preclude a longer Mali mission.

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A parliamentary majority sanctioned the deployment of a Hercules transporter and support staff for Mali late last night, with the Red Greens as the only party to oppose to the move.

Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal declined to say whether the deployment could be longer than the three months initially sanctioned, but Defence Minister Nick Hækkerup said a prolonged mission could not be excluded.

“It may be that it will be longer, but that is not the plan at the moment,” Hækkerup said in a Danish Broadcasting talk show adding; “The success criteria may be the United Nations position after three months and how the other African nations see the issue at that point in time.”

Asked what Denmark’s position would be if a situation similar to Libya developed, with fears of genocide and with Mali asking for air support, Hækkerup said “If a genocide is the making and if the United Nations makes a request, we would seriously consider the issue.”

The current deployment is geared to helping France combat Islamist rebels in Mali who have taken over most of the north of the country and had begun moving south. The Danish Hercules aircraft will be used to transport troops and materiel from France to Mali, where the government in place had asked for help to beat back the well-armed rebels.

France currently has some 800 troops in Mali, with suggestions that Paris will be expanding the force to some 2,500 troops.

A West African force of some 3,300 troops is currently under development, with the first Nigerian troops due to arrive in Mali today. Six other West African nations have said they will join the West African force, which will be under Nigerian command and in Mali in response to a United Nations Security Council resolution.

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