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Paris (AFP) Jan 20, 2013
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Sunday that Russia had offered to help transport French troops and supplies to Mali and that Canada was to help to bring African troops to the country.
Asked on Europe 1 radio about how African troops would be transported, Fabius said "there is transportation that will be partly by the Africans themselves, partly by the Europeans and partly by the Canadians."
"And the Russians have proposed to provide means of transport for the French, so it's fairly diverse," he said.
The statement was the first indication that Russia would join other nations in providing logistical assistance to French forces fighting against Islamist militants in Mali who have seized control of the north of the country.
A French military offensive launched on January 11 -- initially restricted to air strikes before being extended to ground battles -- has halted the rebels' sweep into the government-controlled south.
France has so far sent about 2,000 troops to Mali and is waiting for the deployment of a UN-mandated force made up West African soldiers. Only about 100 African soldiers of a planned 5,800-strong African force have so far reached Mali.
Fabius said France hoped the African troops would arrive "as quickly as possible".
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