Mali: Nato Rules Out Mali Role but Backs French Intervention

Nato is not likely to become involved in Mali, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Friday. France said that its intervention is a at a key stage and that it aims to hand over to African forces.

"Nato as such is not engaged in the Mali operation and I don't see a role for Nato as such in Mali," Rasmussen said during a brief visit to Lithuania's capital Vilnius.

But he hailed France for taking "swift and also effective action" in its joint operation with Malian troops to end the control of Islamist militias over the north of the country.

"I also appreciate that individual Nato allies have decided to support France in that very important mission," Rasmussen said. "But the UN Security Council has decided that there should be an African-led stabilisation force and this is a reason why I don't see a role for Nato."

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said her country is ready to provide humanitarian aid and assist in the European Union training mission in Mali.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday that the French ntervention was at a crossroads.

"President François Hollande wanted us to first stop the jihadist offensive from moving towards the south - that was accomplished right away," he claimed.

"Then he said we must accompany the Malians and the African forces in getting back Mali's autonomy and integrity - we're in the process of doing that. And finally, we must make sure Mali's national reconciliation can be implemented and that African forces, with Europe's help, can contribute to the security of the territory."

The new phase doesn't mean the military risks or the combat is over, he warned.

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