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Italy latest to play role in Mali fight

Jan. 16, 2013 at 12:21 PM

ROME, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Italy is ready to provide logistical support to military operations launched last week by French forces in Mali, the country's foreign minister said Wednesday.

French forces last week responded to a request from the Malian government to help thwart the advance of foreign and Islamic rebels on the south of the country. Operations have since expanded as battle lines become muddied.

The U.S. and British governments announced they'd help with the French intervention, but wouldn't put boots on the ground in Mali.

Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi told lawmakers Wednesday the military was ready to play a role according to U.N. Security Council resolutions authorizing force in Mali.

"Italy is ready to offer logistical support to the operation" he said. Logistical support would be air-based, he added in his statement.

Militants claimed authority over northern Mali in early 2012 following a coup d'état in Bamako. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said recent fighting in the country has displaced more than 30,000 people.

Catherine Ashton, the top foreign policy official for the European Union, said the threat from Mali now extends beyond national borders.

"What we are facing today in Mali is a matter of emergency," she told EU lawmakers. "We have to act. Failing to do so would be a great political, strategic and humanitarian mistake."

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