EU sets date for Mali meeting

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iol pic afr mali -french -soldiers REUTERS French soldiers wait to refuel their Armoured Personnel Carrier at a Malian air base in Bamako.

Brussels - The European Union will host an international meeting to discuss the security situation in Mali next month, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Monday.

The conference will take place in two weeks' time in Brussels and will involve the United Nations, the African Union and ECOWAS, the regional grouping of West African states.

“We have offered to host on February 5 a ministerial meeting of the international support and follow-up group on the situation in Mali,” spokesman Michael Mann told reporters.

France has deployed 2 000 group troops in Mali and its war planes have pounded rebel columns and bases for 10 days, turning back an Islamist advance towards the capital.

The EU has set up a “clearing house mechanism” to channel support to the West African intervention force that is being sent to Mali, Mann said. The mechanism will handle all offers of logistical support and requests for support for the force.

The French commander of an EU mission set up to train the Mali army, Gen. Francois Lecointre, is due to arrive in Mali on Monday after his trip was held up by bad weather, Mann said.

“Technical experts will also be there and so the work will begin on the training mission,” he said. - Reuters

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