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Ottawa looking for ways to help France’s ‘anti-terrorist’ mission in Mali

A French military vehicle drives off a Canadian Air Force C-17 transport plane in Bamako, Mali, on Jan. 22, 2013.

ERIC GAILLARD/REUTERS

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he's looking at ways for Canada to extend its support of France's military mission in Mali.

Last week, he approved the sending of a C-17 heavy-lift cargo plane for one week to help France ferry equipment to the African nation, as it builds up its forces there for the fight against Islamist extremists. But France's president, François Hollande, asked Mr. Harper personally in a telephone call last week for Canada to extend the mission of the C-17 and provide other, unspecified air-transport help.

Mr. Harper, speaking at a press conference after an announcement in Cambridge, Ont., said the government is looking at ways to help France in what Ottawa views as a "very important anti-terrorist mission."

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"The government is looking at whether and how to extend those commitments, commitments of technical support to that mission," Mr. Harper said.

He said he is consulting with opposition parties to see what form of mission they would support, arguing that any Canadian action should have broad consensus in the country.

"Anything we do, I would like to see a broad Canadian consensus behind that. I do think it is important to help this mission. At the same time – I think we've been very clear, and I think this reflects Canadian opinion, that while we're prepared to help, we don't want to see a direct Canadian mission to Mali."

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair told Mr. Harper in a phone call Sunday that he supports extending the tour of the Canadian C-17 now ferrying equipment from France to Bamako beyond the one week Ottawa initially offered, said the party's foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar. Mr. Mulcair wants to discuss any other development in Parliament, he said.

The Conservatives and NDP agreed that the Commons foreign affairs committee will hold hearings on the Mali mission soon after the house resumes sitting next week, Mr. Dewar said.

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About the Author
Chief political writer

Campbell Clark has been a political writer in The Globe and Mail’s Ottawa bureau since 2000. Before that he worked for The Montreal Gazette and the National Post. He writes about Canadian politics and foreign policy. More

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