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Most Canadians against sending combat troops to Mali: poll

In this photo taken Friday Feb. 8, 2013, French soldiers walk on the tarmac of the airport in the remote desert city of Tesalit, northern Mali. President of the government body representing the area of Tessalit, Aicha Belco Maiga confirmed by telephone on Friday from her home in Bamako that her town had been retaken by French forces.

AP

A new poll suggests most Canadians would oppose the deployment of combat troops to Mali to fight Islamist rebels.

Fewer than one in five respondents to the Canadian Press-Harris/Decima survey favour sending troops to the landlocked African country to fight a violent insurgency.

Just over one third of respondents said Canada should offer humanitarian aid without military involvement, while another 28 per cent supported sending Canadian non-combat trainers, equipment and support personnel.

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Another 11 per cent of respondents said Canada should not get involved in Mali at all.

The telephone poll of just over 1,000 Canadians was conducted between Jan. 31 and Feb. 4 and is considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The survey results come as French and African troops routed militants from major cities in Mali's north this week.

A military coup in March, 2012 created a power vacuum that allowed al-Qaeda affiliated groups to take over the country's north, an area of land the size of France.

Harris/Decima chairman Allan Gregg says the poll suggests many Canadians, weary after a decade of war in Afghanistan, aren't anxious to get involved in another conflict.

"While Canadians believe Canada has a role to play in the world — even in parts of the world where a direct, vested interest might not be readily apparent — few see that role as a military one," Gregg said in a release.

"The notion that Canadians are 'peacekeepers' and moral leaders — as opposed to a combat nation — seems to run very deep and clearly applies to the current conflict in Mali."

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