STRASBOURG, France Jan 15 The European Union
will speed up and adapt plans for a military training mission
for the Malian army and take other new measures to help the
country's government and people, EU foreign policy chief
Catherine Ashton said on Tuesday.
Ashton is preparing for an extraordinary meeting of EU
foreign ministers, expected to take place in Brussels on
Thursday, and she was speaking as France hit Islamist rebels
with more air strikes.
The European Union has ruled out taking any combat role in
Mali. It plans to send military trainers for the Malian army and
expects the first trainers to arrive in late February or early
March, although EU states are looking at a proposal to bring
forward their arrival by about two weeks.
"We're going to adapt accordingly the details of our
European mission" and send preparatory elements of the mission
quicker than previously planned, Ashton said in a speech at the
European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
Ashton said security threats stemming from upheaval in Mali
extended to Europe, as the rebels were using territory they had
seized for arms smuggling and drug trafficking. EU governments
planned to adopt new measures to help the country, she said,
without giving details.
"Colleagues have put together a package of measures that
will provide immediate and longer-term help to the Malian
government and people," Ashton said.