Bouteflika backs foreign help in Mali

2012-12-11 14:10

Algiers - Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika told AFP in an exclusive interview that it was normal for Mali to get global support in its fight against "terrorism", while urging talks with moderate rebels.

Terrorism in northern Mali, which has been overrun by al-Qaeda linked Islamists, is a "global threat that has no nationality, region or religious affiliation", said the Algerian head of state, in a written reply to questions from AFP.

"It is normal that Mali enjoys the support of the international community, in seeing [that threat] eradicated," he said.

Algeria will "continue to work within its means to mobilise other countries in the region to provide the appropriate help in the struggle against this scourge."

Bouteflika was replying to the question of whether Algeria, which has a long border with northern Mali, would allow France and the United States to help neutralise the Islamists who have occupied the region for months.

A March coup in Bamako plunged the once stable democracy into a crisis which has seen over half its territory seized by the hardliners, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) and its offshoot the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao).

Algeria has always defended the principle of non-interference, but did not oppose a UN resolution authorising the possible intervention of an African military force if dialogue fails.

Training and logistical support

Bouteflika said he supported a "negotiated political solution between the Malian government and rebels who clearly distance themselves from terrorist and criminal activity."

The Algerian president was referring to homegrown rebels the Tuareg Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) and Islamist group Ansar Dine, who are already in talks with Bamako.

He also reaffirmed that Algiers supported Bamako in reinforcing "its own capabilities with the immediate goal of helping it become the first in control of its destiny".

The west African bloc Ecowas is pressing hard for the UN Security Council to approve a French-backed plan for military intervention, so that the training of Malian forces can start in the New Year.

Germany and the United States have offered training and logistical support.

But misgivings are rife over the plan to send in 3 300 west African troops, with many of Mali's neighbours still preferring a negotiated solution and both the UN and US have urged caution and demanded more detail on the force's capabilities.