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19 Feb, 2013 10:38

US direct military support to Mali likely to continue after elections

The US could carry on with direct military support in Mali, even if the elections scheduled to take place by July are successful, according to a visiting American Congressional delegation.
US direct military support to Mali likely to continue after elections

­"American humanitarian assistance is continuing to Malians who have been displaced by the violence and American support for the work of democracy, the process of supporting elections will be provided after there is a full restoration of democracy. I would think it is likely that we will renew our direct support for the Malian military, but we all must work together first for a successful election," the head of the delegation, Senator Christopher Coons, told journalists in the Malian capital, Bamako.The head of the mission indicated that the US law bans direct assistance to Mali's armed forces at the moment due to a military coup there last year which ousted the elected government.Last month, the US began helping the French military in Mali to fight against the Islamist insurgents in the country’s north. America provided refueling assistance, transport, as well as intelligence in the conflict-torn African nation. Some US lawmakers criticized President Barack Obama's administration last week for not doing more to help France in Mali."This is a NATO ally fighting Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists – it shouldn't be that hard," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said, as cited by AFP.

Meanwhile, France has officially resumed its financial aid to Mali, after suspending help to the former colony following the March 2012 coup. Some 150 million euro (US$200 million) will be unfrozen, according to AFP.The EU is set to host a donor conference in mid-May in Brussels to boost the international community’s efforts to stabilize Mali, the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, told reporters on Monday.The European Union formally approved a plan to send 500 troops to Mali to help train the Malian army on Monday. However, the personnel will not be involved in any combat, EU officials told AP.The mission will "support stability in Mali and the Sahel, both now and in the future. Respect for human rights and the protection of civilians will be an important part of the training program," EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said.The pullout of the majority of 4,000 French troops is scheduled for March, with the security handed over to the Malian army, as well as to the UN-backed AFISMA force, which is expected to exceed 8,000 soldiers. Most of its soldiers come from Mali's West African neighbors.Despite that, almost a week ago, the UN announced its plans to deploy about 6,000 peacekeepers in Mali to avoid ‘a catastrophic spiral of violence’, admitting a humanitarian disaster in the country.Mali's interim leadership said it would hold presidential and parliamentary elections by the end of July. The situation in the country remains very shaky, with explosions and street violence still frequent occurrences.