The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the troops would be in addition to the up to 40 personnel that Britain is offering to contribute to a European Union training mission to build up the the Malian army.

In addition, the UK has offered to supply a roll-on, roll-off ferry to help transport heavy equipment to the French intervention force
currently spearheading the fight against the Islamist militants.

It will also allow allies such as the United States to fly air-to-air refuelling missions from British airbases in support of the French operation.

However the spokesman said that an offer to establish a joint Anglo-French logistics headquarters in Mali to organise supplies to the French force had not been take up by Paris.

With around 90 UK personnel already committed in the region with the RAF
Sentinel surveillance aircraft and two C-17 transport aircraft already operating in support of the French mission, it could take the numbers involved to more than 300.

However the spokesman said David Cameron remained adamant that British troops would not be involved in combat operations against the militants.

“We have been very clear with everyone about our position of no combat role. That remains entirely unchanged,” the spokesman said.

The mission to train a West African force known as Afisma – which
has been under consideration since late last year – was being discussed
at a donor conference for Mali being orgainsed by the African Union in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

British personnel with be involved in training troops from Anglophone countries, such as Nigeria, which is expected to be one of the largest contributors to Afisma which is slated to take over from the
French once their mission is over.

“We think the right way to do this is for regionally-led forces to take the lead. The UK’s role in supporting Afisma is to support that regionally-led capability,” the spokesman said.

He said it was yet to be decided whether the personnel would be based in the countries of the forces they are training or in Mali itself.

“That is part of the discussions that are ongoing,” he said.

However he said the personnel taking part in the EU training mission would not be involved in force protection.

PA

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