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Britain mulls more support for France in Mali



London:British defence chiefs were to discuss on Tuesday how to boost support for the French-led offensive in Mali in the wake of the deadly hostage crisis at a gas plant in neighbouring Algeria.

Prime Minister David Cameron was to chair a meeting of the National Security Council to consider what additional surveillance and transport assistance Britain can provide to the operation against Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels in Mali.The premier vowed on Monday to show "iron resolve" in tackling Islamic terrorism after 37 foreigners, including at least three Britons, were killed following the attack by Islamist gunmen on a gas plant in the Algerian desert.

Britain has already loaned two C-17 transport planes to France and pledged to provide troops to an EU mission to train the Malian army, though Cameron said the British contribution would number "in the tens, not the hundreds".The prime minister stressed that Britain was "not seeking a combat role" in Mali.The Times newspaper reported on Tuesday that British troops had been placed on "high readiness" to deploy, but a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said its planning "does not include British personnel in a ground combat role"."The MoD is supporting French efforts through logistical support," a ministry spokesman said.

"Ministers will continue to review the situation and any requirement for further support."Cameron said on Monday that North Africa was becoming a "magnet" for jihadists from other countries, and vowed to use Britain's presidency of the G8 this year to tackle terrorism.He said Britain would contribute intelligence and counter-terrorism assets to an "international effort to find and dismantle the network that planned and ordered the brutal assault" on the remote In Amenas gas field.Three Britons have been confirmed dead in the Algerian crisis, while three others are believed dead.


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