Page last updated at 18:42 GMT, Monday, 14 January 2013

Mali statement

A Foreign Office minister has said it was right for the UK government to provide "limited support" to French troops fighting rebels in Mali.

Mark Simmonds said the government had ruled out a French request for UK combat troops, and confirmed Britain's current logistical role would be limited to one week.

The French military is assisting the Malian army in trying to contain Islamist fighters in northern Mali.

Mr Simmonds was addressing MPs from the despatch box in the Commons on 14 January 2013.

He said: "The situation in Mali is a serious concern for the UK. It would not be in our interest to allow a terrorist haven to develop in northern Mali.

"As a responsible member of the [United Nations] Security Council, we must support the region in limiting the danger of instability in that part of Africa, threatening UK interests."

The minister said two RAF transport planes were being sent to help French military operations, although one has broken down.

Labour reiterated its support for the UK's limited mission in Mali.

John Spellar, a shadow minister at the Foreign Office, said it was "important to be clear on the strategic purpose of this engagement and the end point that is sought".

Liberal Democrat MP Martin Horwood said not all those involved in the unrest in Mali were jihadists and a political solution might be possible.

"Can Britain ensure subtlety and negotiating skills are deployed alongside the (French) Mirage jets, especially as Britain is widely regarded as rather more neutral in the region than France?" he asked.

Mr Simmonds said there was a United Nations process in place to encourage dialogue between the groups.

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