David Cameron offers France further help in Mali campaign

PM sends national security adviser to Paris to discuss what else Britain can do, after providing two transport aircraft

David Cameron has told the French president, François Hollande, that Britain is "keen" to provide further military assistance to France in its operation to drive Islamist militants from Mali.

The prime minister has sent his national security adviser, Sir Kim Darroch, to Paris to discuss what help Britain could provide.

Britain has already provided two C-17 transport aircraft to help move French troops and equipment into Mali and a reconnaissance aircraft, the Sentinel R1, which were used during the Libya campaign.

The Guardian reported last week that a small number of British special forces soldiers were on the ground in Mali advising the French.

The prime minister's spokesman said Cameron made his offer of further help in a telephone call with Hollande on Sunday evening. The spokesman said: "On Mali the French president gave an update on the progress that Mali and French forces have been making. He also thanked the prime minister for the UK transport assistance which the UK has provided.

"The prime minister made clear that we fully support the French government's actions working with the Malian government at their request to deny terrorists a safe haven in Mali. The prime minister went on to explain that we are keen to continue to provide further assistance where we can, depending on what French requirements there may be.

"With regard to that, the UK national security adviser is in Paris today for discussions with French authorities on what further assistance we may be able to provide to them."

The spokesman said Britain's position on having no combat role in Mali remained "absolutely unchanged". But he said No 10 was prepared to provide more help "around logistics, intelligence and surveillance support".

He added: "It is very much discussing about what more we may be able to do, subject to requests from the French government. We very strongly support the French intervention. If there is more we can do we are keen to do what we can to help within the sphere of what the prime minister set out very clearly previously in the House [of Commons]."


Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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