Mali donor conference to seek $450 million for African troops

PARIS Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:35am EST

PARIS (Reuters) - A donor conference for Mali next week will seek about 340 million euros ($452 million) for the training and deployment of Malian and African troops fighting Islamist militants in the north of the country, France said on Tuesday.

France, the former colonial power in Mali, plans to hand over the military operation to a U.N.-mandated African mission (AFISMA) but its deployment has been hampered by a lack of supplies, funds and training.

The donor conference will be held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on January 29.

"We estimate that the Malian forces needs will be around 120 million euros and about 220 million euros for AFISMA for a full year," Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said.

He said the figures were still being fleshed out by the United Nations, but would be used to restructure and train Malian troops and deploy African forces.

France has conducted 140 bombing sorties since it launched a military campaign against Islamist militants on January 11 and sent 2,150 ground troops, as well as fighter jets and attack helicopters to stem the rebel advance.

French forces are waiting for soldiers from nearby African nations to deploy to the front line.

Some 1,000 African soldiers from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS and the central African nation of Chad have arrived, a number expected to top 5,000 in the coming weeks.

Lalliot said Paris intended to pass command to Malian and African troops as they moved to clear Islamist rebels from the north of the country, but was ready to support them if needed.

($1 = 0.7510 euros)

(Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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