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Germany backs Mali intervention, but not with weapons

Germany has pledged to help Mali to reconquer its Islamist-controlled north as instability in the region threatens to spread. However, Berlin will not be providing weapons or Bundeswehr soldiers for a military mission.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Tuesday that Germany would help Mali's government to stabilize its Islamist-dominated northern region.

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Westerwelle advocates peace mission in Mali

This will offering training assistance to troops in Mali, Westerwelle told reporters after meeting with UN special envoy for the region, Romano Prodi in Berlin. "We'll possibly also help with logistics, technically and financially," he elaborated.

Germany's foreign minister stressed, however, that German support would stop short of providing Bundeswehr troops or arms. He said it was too early to have conversations about military action. "The focus on the military discussion is not appropriate and very premature," Westerwelle said, adding that any military intervention should be African-led.

His pledge of support came amid fears that northern Mali could become a sanctuary for radicals following a March coup in which al Qaeda's north African branch seized control of the north alongside several other radical Islamist groups. Westerwelle warned that this development not only threatened the region, but could also put Europe in danger.

"We're extremely concerned about the situation in Northern Mali. The human rights situation, the security situation, the humanitarian situation - they are all worrying," he said.

"If northern Mali falls, if terrorist training camps are set up there, if a safe haven can be built for the terrorists of the world, that threatens not only Mali, the region and the north African states, but also us in Europe."

Merkel backs support

Meanwhile at a meeting of armed forces officers near Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Mali's forces were in need support, being too weak to act alone at present.

"Free, democratic nations cannot allow international terrorism to obtain a safe haven in the north of the country," said Merkel.

EU foreign ministers are poised to debate a proposed support plan for Mali on November 19. The mission would be conducted within the framework of an African Union intervention. The African body is due to present a blueprint for a military mission to its Peace and Security Council on Wednesday and then send it on to the UN Security Council for approval.

ccp, sej/jm (AFP, dpa)

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