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Mali

EU foreign ministers to resume aid to Mali

Foreign ministers from the 27-nation bloc have agreed to reinstate the economic aid program to Mali in light of recent political progress. They have also called for a quicker deployment of African troops.

The meeting in Brussels concluded on Thursday with a series of recommendations to international forces on how best to move forward in the intervention, which aims to restore peace to the Sahel country. Notable among the EU's plans was the gradual renewal of over 200 millions euros ($275 million) in economic aid, which had been suspended last year after a military coup plunged Mali into chaos.

The Malian government's announcement earlier in the week of a roadmap to reunite the country and to hold elections in July had convinced EU foreign ministers to lift the suspension, according to a statement released after the Thursday meeting.

"The adoption of the roadmap is an essential step forward towards the complete re-establishment of constitutional order, including civilian control over the armed forces and the control of the state over all of Mali's territory," the statement said.

European ministers discuss Mali training mission

EU foreign ministers also called on African nations to speed the deployment of their troops.

"The EU encourages the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States to accelerate the deployment of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA)," they said.

Financial and logistical limitations have hindered ECOWAS from sending all 8,000 regional soldiers it has pledged.

Reports of human rights violations also drew the attention of the EU representatives, who called on the Malian government to conduct an immediate investigation of the allegations.

The EU is scheduled to send a training mission to Mali in the coming months in an effort to rebuild the country's military.

Germany considers more logistical aid

As French forces reclaimed the northern city of Kidal on Thursday, international leaders discussed further logistical support needed for Mali.

The UN Security Council said it considering the possibility of deploying UN peacekeeping forces to help maintain calm in the cities French and African forces have taken back from Islamist rebels in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung of the German military's plans to offer aerial refueling services to French military planes operating in Mali.

"We are working on the necessary certification of the refueling systems and are in close contact with France," de Maiziere told the paper. "I think that we can be ready in February."

The Christian Democrat cabinet minister said he believed that approval from the Bundestag parliament would be necessary for such a move.

"If necessary, we can then tie this to the mandate for the planned EU training mission," de Maiziere said, also saying parliament would be informed of a desired timetable "without delay."

kms/dr (AFP, AP, dpa)

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