BERLIN Jan 14 Germany on Monday agreed to
support French troops fighting Islamist rebels in Mali although
it ruled out sending combat troops to the West African country.
Al Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels launched a counter-offensive
in Mali on Monday after four days of French air strikes on their
northern strongholds, seizing the central town of Diabaly and
promising to drag France into a brutal Afghanistan-style war.
France launched a surprise mission to halt the rebels' push
south last Friday, earning promises of logistical support from
the United States, Britain and Canada.
Germany, which disappointed allies two years ago in refusing
to join an operation against Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, then
"Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle offered to work with the
French government in exploring how Germany could support the
French mission, outside of sending combat troops, through
political, logistical, medical and humanitarian means,"
Germany's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"Germany will not leave France alone in this difficult
situation," spokesman Andreas Peschke told reporters.
Westerwelle in a phone call with French counterpart Laurent
Fabius also discussed the need to intensify European Union
preparations for a mission to Mali to train government troops,
the ministry said.
European Union foreign ministers will hold an extraordinary
meeting in Brussels this week to discuss the crisis.
The German foreign ministry declined to give details on what
kind of support Germany could offer.
It may say more on Wednesday when Ivory Coast President
Alassane Ouattara, who holds the rotating chairmanship of the
West African bloc ECOWAS, visits for talks with German
Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Paris has pressed ECOWAS to deploy 3,300 African soldiers as
quickly as possible in Mali.
Asked if Ouattara would request military transport planes to
fly African troops to Mali, German Defence Minister Thomas de
Maiziere said he had not heard such a request but could look
Germany, which in the wake of its past aggression has
sometimes struggled to define its military role, has said since
last October that it could support an EU mission to train troops
but would not engage in combat.