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Westerwelle pledges German solidarity with Mali

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has arrived in Mali for talks about European efforts to help the country's weak interim government. The visit comes amid talks of an African-led military intervention in Mali.

Westerwelle began his trip in Senegal late Wednesday, and travelled on to Mali's capital Bamako Thursday. He is scheduled to meet leaders of Mali's transitional government, which is under mounting pressure to regain control of nearly two-thirds of the country from Islamist insurgents.

The al Qaeda linked insurgents used a power vacuum created by a military coup in March to gain control over the north.

The Foreign Ministry said that Westerwelle would use talks with with Interim President Dioncounda Traore, Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra and Foreign Minister Tieman Coulibaly to deliever the message that "we stand in solidarity alongside Mali to resolve the crisis."

Westerwelle's visit to the region comes as the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations are meeting in Bamako to discuss a possible African-led military intervention to take back the rebel-held areas in Mali.

The West African community and the AU have until mid-November to submit a plan to the UN Security Council for 3,300 troops to possibly be deployed to Mali, pending a UN resolution.

While Germany has ruled out sending combat troops in support of such a mission, it has said it could join the European Union in providing training and logistical support to ECOWAS troops.

"A lawless area on the southern edge of the Sahara, where terrorists find their retreat, can endanger also our security,” told reporters in Dakar, prior to his flight to Bamako.

The foreign minister was to return to the Senegalese capital Dakar later in the day for hold talks with the country's president, Macky Sall. On Friday he is to continue on to Nigeria to meet with President Goodluck Jonathan.

hc/pfd  (AP, dpa)