PARIS Jan 13 Algeria has allowed France full
use of its air space in its military intervention against
Islamist rebels in Mali and is ready to seal its border if the
conflict moves north, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
said on Sunday.
Fabius said he was in regular contact with the government in
Algeria, which had pushed for a political solution to the
crisis in Mali over a military intervention, and was grateful it
was being supportive of the operation.
"Algeria has authorised unlimited access to fly over its
territory, something I thank the Algerian authorities for,"
Fabius told LCI television, as Rafale jets deployed from France
pounded rebel strongholds in northern Mali.
"We talk regularly with Algeria. I must underline our
collaboration, and what we envisage - although it's not for
today - is that if the African troops move to the north, the
Algerians would have to close their border," he said.
Algeria, which shares a 2,000 km (1,242 mile) border with
Mali, has worried that a military offensive could push al Qaeda
militants into southern Algeria and also trigger a refugee
crisis if displaced Malian Tuaregs head north to Algeria.
A security source in Algeria familiar with the situation
told Reuters he believed the border may already be closed.
Algeria, an influential regional power and a top oil and gas
exporter, has pressed for a diplomatic solution for Mali rather
than the intervention to be led by the West African ECOWAS bloc.
At the same time, Algiers has waged a long campaign against
Islamist militants on its own territory, and the rebels in Mali
hold three Algerian diplomats hostage.
Fabius said he would speak to the Malian prime minister on
his return from a two-day visit to Algiers.