Canada pondering Mali mission help
OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he’s consulting the cabinet and opposition parties on what Canada could contribute to a possible United Nations peacekeeping mission for Mali.
Harper stressed Canada isn’t interested in a combat mission, but is considering what other military support and development aid it might contribute.
“But the details in terms of what our long-term engagement may be are still the subject of discussions that we are having with our ministerial colleagues, our caucus, and, as well, obviously we’re talking to the opposition parties on their preferences, as well.”
Standing next to visiting French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on Parliament Hill, Harper welcomed France’s military efforts to dislodge al-Qaida linked terrorists from Mali’s north.
“Let me express our tremendous admiration for France in taking the leadership role in fighting the terrorist threat in northern Mali,” Harper said.
“This is a tremendous demonstration of the leadership of France and the importance of France in the world.”
Ayrault said France is pushing for a UN vote next month to approve peacekeepers for the West African country.
He noted France wants its troops out of Mali and wants peacekeepers to take over from French and African forces currently fighting Islamic extremists.
Ayrault also thanked Canada for sending a C-17 military transport plane to support that campaign.
“Canada was very spontaneous, not only politically but also logistically,” he remarked.
“The C-17 plane that you lent the French forces allowed us to move troops quickly, as well as provide good logistical support in very favourable conditions and to provide support to other countries, too.”
France answered an emergency call from Mali, its former colony, in January after the militants claimed control of the country’s northern half following a military coup that destabilized the country.
The al-Qaida affiliates had taken control of a chunk of Africa roughly the size of France, stoking fears West Africa would become a terrorist haven.
French forces still are fighting and are not yet ready to withdraw.
Harper said the C-17 “will remain there as long as we feel there is a need.”