EU to play active role in Mali crisis, foreign policy chief says

LIMA Tue Jan 22, 2013 6:03pm EST

LIMA (Reuters) - The European Union will play an active role in trying to resolve the crisis in Mali, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Tuesday as France battles Islamist rebels in the north of the African country.

France's intervention, which started more than a week ago, aims to prevent northern Mali from becoming a launch pad for international attacks by al Qaeda and its allies - like the deadly assault last week on an Algerian gas plant.

Ashton has called a meeting in Brussels on February 5 to bring together African, European and U.N. leaders to discuss security in Mali.

"We recognize the importance of what France is currently doing ... but we need to translate all of that into a broader set of actions to provide a long term solution," she said after meeting with Peru's foreign minister.

"We will play a very key and very active role in this in the weeks and months to come."

She did not directly respond when asked if other European countries would commit troops to the intervention. A group of West African countries are deploying forces under a U.N. mandate.

Ashton said the strategy would include long-term development support as well as "ensuring that those who use terrorism are taken back away from where they are currently operating."

(Reporting By Patricia Velez; Editing by Terry Wade and Christopher Wilson)

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