OTTAWA (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande asked Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to extend the one-week contribution of a C-17 military cargo plane to the campaign against Islamist rebels in Mali, French Ambassador Philippe Zeller said on Thursday.
The request was relayed in a phone call about Mali on Wednesday, during which Harper’s office said “the two leaders agreed to stay in touch as the situation evolves.”
The Canadian statement did not mention any new requests by Hollande. But Zeller said the French president asked Harper to let the C-17 stay on for more than seven days.
“It’s ... very useful to use this aircraft over the next, probably, days and, if it’s possible, weeks. So that was part of what our president asked,” Zeller told CBC television. He said Hollande also referred to a U.N. resolution that countries provide financial support to the Malian operation.
The Canadian plane left for France on Tuesday and brought its first cargo of French troops and equipment to Mali on Thursday. A Canadian military spokeswoman said the clock started ticking on the allotted week when the plane landed in Bamako.
So far, the Canadian position is unchanged despite Hollande’s request. Harper spokesman Carl Vallee told Reuters: “The two leaders agreed to be in touch over the course of the week. Canada’s contribution remains one C-17 for one week.” (Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Vicki Allen)