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EU approves military training mission for Mali

The EU is to dispatch a military training group to Mali as part of efforts to bring the country's north under state control. Fears are rising that the area, which is under Islamist control, could become a terrorist base.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels approved plans on Monday to send a 250-strong military training commission to Mali with a view to helping defeat Islamists who have seized control over the country's north.

The EU force, which would not fight alongside Malian soldiers, is one dimension of a broader international effort to restore order and unity as fears rise that the West African country could become a base for terrorists looking to launch attacks.

The expressed goal of the EU Training Mission is to help Mali's army to work better and adhere to international standards and rule of law, according to a statement from the foreign ministers.

The mission is likely to focus on providing basic training to four battalions within Mali's army at centers located roughly 250 kilometers north of the capital, Bamako, according to EU officials.

Meanwhile, regional leaders are pushing for a UN mandate to send a mainly 4,000-strong West African force to Mali. Its goals would be to help rebuild the Malian army and then undertake an operation to enable Mali to retake control of the north. But UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said last week that such a military campaign could not happen before September 2013.

Mali has been a state in chaos since a coup in March created an opportunity for Tuareg separatists to declare control over swaths of the north. Islamist militants then in turn seized control of large areas in the region.

sej/pfd (dpa, Reuters)