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February 18, 2013

US Could Resume Direct Military Aid To Mali After Elections

by VOA News

A U.S. Congressional delegation visiting Mali says the United States is likely to provide more support to Mali's military after the country holds elections.

The head of the delegation, Senator Christopher Coons, told reporters Monday in Bamako the United States will probably resume direct support for Mali's military, but only after democracy is restored in the West African nation.

Coons says American law prohibits direct assistance to Mali's armed forces at present, because a military coup there last year toppled the elected government.

"American humanitarian assistance is continuing to Malians who have been displaced by the violence and American support for the work of democracy, the process of supporting elections will be provided after there is a full restoration of democracy. I would think it is likely that we will renew our direct support for the Malian military but we all must work together first for a successful election."

The United States has been providing refueling support and intelligence to a French military force that intervened in Mali last month to stop Islamist insurgents.

In another development, the European Union formally approved a plan to send 500 military personnel to Mali to help train the Malian army. EU officials say the personnel will not be involved in any combat.

French forces entered Mali last month when Islamic militants, who seized control of northern Mali last year, started to move towards the capital, Bamako.

West African troops have started to take over the mission from France. The United Nations is considering taking control of an international peacekeeping force.

Mali's government says it will hold presidential and parliamentary elections in July.

Senator Coons is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa and is leading a delegation of four U.S. lawmakers to Mali.