Harper rules out Canadian boots on the ground in Mali

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Credits: REUTERS/Chris Wattie


OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper ruled out any direct Canadian military involvement in an African-led mission in Mali.

But he said the Conservative government is weighing other options to help Malian troops roust Islamist terrorist who have taken hold of the West African country's northern regions.

"We're providing humanitarian aid to this region, which is important, and we are consulting with and working with and will continue diplomatically with our allies in the West and obviously with our friends in Africa on ways we can be of assistance," Harper said Tuesday during a joint news conference with Beninese President Thomas Boni Yayi, the head of the African Union,.

"The development of essentially an entire terrorist region in the middle of Africa is of grave concern to everyone in the international community."

In December, Defence Minister Peter MacKay suggested Canada was open to offering training to troops that would operate in the region. In the past, Canada chipped in training and equipment to a joint African Union-United Nations operation in Sudan.

Boni Yayi urged speed in getting the mission, recently approved by the UN Security Council, up and running.
"We believe in dialogue but dialogue with the forces of evil is futile," he said. "We need to not waste anymore time."

Calling the terrorist insurgency in Mali's north an international threat, he requested NATO also to step in and work with international partners in removing the groups that include al-Qaida militants.

A military coup last March allowed rebels to seize Mali's north and for terror groups to move in.

- with files from Reuters.

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