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France seeks Arab backing for Mali campaign

By The New York Times

This article was originally published January 15, 2013 at 8:32 a.m. Updated January 15, 2013 at 11:11 a.m.

french-army-soldiers-patrol-along-a-main-department-store-in-paris-tuesday-jan-15-2013-armed-soldiers-are-on-patrol-in-paris-subways-train-stations-and-some-of-the-worlds-most-recognizable-monuments-to-head-off-terror-attacks-after-frances-military-launched-an-operation-to-push-back-al-qaida-linked-insurgents-in-mali

French army soldiers patrol along a main department store in Paris, Tuesday Jan. 15, 2013. Armed soldiers are on patrol in Paris' subways, train stations and some of the world's most recognizable monuments to head off terror attacks after France's military launched an operation to push back al-Qaida-linked insurgents in Mali.

France carried out new airstrikes overnight against Islamist fighters in central Mali, as Paris pledged Tuesday to commit more troops to a potentially protracted campaign against extremists pressing south from a jihadist state they have forged in the desert north of the country.

The assessment that the conflict could be long and perilous appeared to be reflected in a call by France on Tuesday for Arab support to bolster an African force to fight the insurgents.

“We — not just the French, but all nations — have to combat terrorism,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said during a visit to the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf, announcing that donors would meet later this month, probably in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss financing an offensive against the rebels in Mali, Reuters reported.

“Everybody has to commit to oneself in fighting against terrorism,” Fabius said. We are pretty confident that the Emirates will go into that direction as well.”

On Monday, the extremists overran the central village of Diabaly, just hours after Fabius said confidently that France had blocked “the advance of the terrorists,” accomplishing its first mission in the conflict.

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. has ruled out putting any American troops on the ground in Mali, but officials are hoping the French will be able to succeed in establishing better security for the West African nation.

Panetta spoke at a news conference in Lisbon with Portuguese Defense Minister Jose Aguiar Branco.

The U.S. is providing intelligence-gathering assistance to the French in their assault on Islamist extremists in Mali, and officials would not rule out having American aircraft land in the West African nation as part of future efforts to lend airlift and logistical support.

On Tuesday, Panetta said the U.S. is still working through the details of assistance it will provide France.

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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