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Bundeswehr

German defense minister visits Mali ahead of training program

German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere is in Mali for his first visit to the West African country in crisis. German soldiers will assist Malian forces in training programs next month.

De Maiziere met with Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore on Monday in the capital, Bamako, as well as French General Francois Lecointre, who is commanding the French military mission in Mali.

The defense minister told Traore that German soldiers would help out with transport aircraft and military training, as long as was necessary.

In the afternoon, Maiziere will travel to the city of Koulikoro, where, starting next month, about 80 Bundeswehr soldiers will assist in a training program for Mali’s armed forces.

The army has already contributed four aircraft for logistical support, which are currently stationed in neighboring Senegal along with about 90 German soldiers.

On Sunday, de Maiziere was in Senegal's capital Dakar visiting troops.

In late February, Germany's parliament approved plans to send up to 330 troops to Mali to help train the country's military and provide logistical support. However, Germany said it will not contribute soldiers to combat operations.

The Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, voted by a wide margin to authorize contributing up to 180 soldiers to an EU task force that will help train the Malian army. The lawmakers also approved up to 150 German soldiers for air transport and refueling operations.

hc/dr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)