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More money needed to support Mali fight: French envoy

OTTAWA — France is looking for financial backing from Canada and the world to support the international military mission in Mali, says the country’s Canadian envoy.

Ambassador Philippe Zeller also said Canada’s contribution of a C-17 military transport plane could be extended beyond the initial one-week commitment.

“It’s possible that this plane, that came from Trenton to south of France, might be used for some more time,” the envoy said Wednesday just after his president, Francois Hollande, spoke to Prime Minister Stephen Harper by telephone.

Harper’s office made no mention of extending the C-17 mission in a statement about the telephone call.

Zeller told The Canadian Press that his country is grateful for Canada’s contribution of a military transport plane to the Mali mission, but says money is needed to support the international force, which will eventually be buttressed by 2,500 French troops.

“Of course, it’s up to Canada,” Zeller said in a wide-ranging interview prior to his meeting Wednesday with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and the ambassadors from Mali and the Ivory Coast.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara is current chair of the Economic Community of West African States, a key regional bloc.

Zeller said last month’s United Nations resolution supporting Mali opens the door for Canada and other countries to provide funds to support the international mission of African and French troops that is about to take on al-Qaida-linked forces.

“We understand that every opportunity to help and intervene is still on the table with the exception, clearly expressed by the prime minister at the beginning of last week,” Zeller said.

Harper has ruled out any Canadian combat contribution, saying that’s not how he interprets the UN resolution urging support of Mali.

Zeller said, though, that Canada and all 190-plus members of the UN can still respond to the resolution “to provide funds, to finance the training of the Malian troops, to fund the inter-African troops, to train, to help at every level.”

Harper has said Canada would focus on diplomatic solutions and humanitarian assistance. Canada’s loan of a C-17 transport plane is good for one week, to see France through the logistical set-up of its combat mission to oust Islamist extremist forces.

 
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