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More logistic pledges for Mali deployments

Russia and Canada have offered to help transport French and African troops to Mali’s Islamist-held north amid calls for more international support. Meanwhile, French troops have advanced towards Mali's north.

A French soldier is reflected in the mirror of a military jeep in Niono January 20, 2013. France and West African leaders called on Saturday on other world powers to commit money and logistical support for African armies readying their troops to join French soldiers already battling al Qaeda-linked militants in Mali. REUTERS/Joe Penney (MALI - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS MILITARY CONFLICT)

Französischer Soldat in Niono Westafrika

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Sunday that Russia had offered to help transport French troops and supplies to Mali and Canada had offered to help to assist African troops with transport.

Meanwhile, French forces say they are pushing north. "The deployment towards the north…which began 24 hours ago, is on course with troops inside the towns of Niono and Sevare," Lieutenant Colonel Emmanuel Dosseur told reporters.

Fabius told Europe 1 radio that "there is transportation that will be partly by the Africans themselves, partly by the Europeans and partly by the Canadians," adding that the Russians "have proposed to provide means of transport for the French, so it's fairly diverse."

African deployment slow

So far, only 100 soldiers from the planned 5,800-strong African force have reached Mali's capital, Bamako. France, which launched an UN-backed unilateral intervention in Mali last week, currently has 2,000 troops on the ground.

Paris has indicated that its deployment could rise to 2,500, but has said that regional forces must ultimately take the lead.

The announcement came a day after the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held an emergency meeting in Ivory Coast to hammer out the final details of a planned intervention to oust Islamist militants from northern Mali.

ECOWAS President Kadre Desire Ouedraogo warned that the bloc could not fund an intervention on its own. He said that some ECOWAS members "had failed to pay their financial contributions."

Fabius calls for funding

"It is vital that the maximum number of countries worldwide contribute" to the effort, Fabius said. A donors' conference is set to be held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on January 29.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Sunday responded to the appeal, promising extra aid but did not set an amount.

"The African troops need financial aid. During the donors' conference in Addis Ababa at the end of the month, Germany will assume its responsibilities," he wrote in the Sunday paper Bild am Sonntag.

So far, Belgium, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands have offered non-combat support.

hc/ipj (AFP, dpa)