US steps up Mali involvement

Washington, Jan 27 (IANS/RIA Novosti) The US will intensify its involvement in an ongoing military operation in Mali, where the French-led offensive against Islamists has entered its third week, the Department of Defense said.

The Pentagon said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta held a phone conversation with French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves le Drian to inform him that "US Africa Command will support the French military by conducting aerial refuelling missions as operations in Mali continue".

"Secretary Panetta and Minister Le Drian resolved to remain in close contact as aggressive operations against terrorist networks in Mali are ongoing," the statement read.

US policy prohibits direct military aid to the incumbent Mali government because it has come to power as a result of a coup, not through an election, CNN said.

Mali, a French colony until 1960, has been in turmoil since a military coup last March, which triggered an uprising of the separatist Tuareg tribes that seized control of the country's south.

--IANS/RIA Novosti



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