EU offers to host international Mali talks Feb 5

AFP , Monday 21 Jan 2013

The European Union offers to host a ministerial meeting to discuss the Malian crisis amid moves to oust Islamist rebels from the north of the west African state

The European Union on Monday offered to host international talks on the Mali crisis on February 5 in Brussels.

"We have offered to host on February 5 a ministerial meeting of the international support and follow-up group on the situation in Mali," said a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

"That will be organised together with the African Union, (the regional West African group of states) ECOWAS and the United Nations," Michael Mann told a news briefing.

The meeting comes amid moves to oust Islamist rebels from the north of the west African country, where French troops moved in at the request of government forces 11 days ago.

A 3,300-strong UN-approved African-led intervention force known as AFISMA is currently being set up but needs up to 200 million euros ($265 million).

The United States and Canada are expected to pick up a substantial part of the tab, with the EU said by sources to be ready to contribute around 50 million euros and help provide logistical support and equipment.

A donors' meeting has been set to be held in Ethiopia at the end of the month.

The EU spokesman also said a small EU team of "technical experts" would arrive in Mali later on Monday to prepare for an advance wave of EU trainers for the Mali army who are to arrive around mid-February.

The 500-strong EU military training mission, which will have no combat role and be made up of soldiers from some 10 EU nations, will provide instruction to the Malian army on command and control, logistics, civilian protection and humanitarian law.

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