Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

U.S. and Algeria Discuss Ousting Mali Militants

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

U.S. and Algeria Discuss Ousting Mali Militants

Article excerpt

ALGIERS, Algeria -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sought Algeria's backing Monday for an emerging international effort to push Islamic militants out of northern Mali, in a meeting here with Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

In several hours of discussions, the two sides focused on the deteriorating situation in northern Mali, which has become a sanctuary for terrorists, including militants from al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, since the national army lost control of the region after a coup in March.

After the meetings, U.S. officials asserted that the Algerian and U.S. political and military approaches to the crisis had begun to converge, but that more work was needed. "We have agreed to continue with in-depth expert discussions," Ms. Clinton said, "to determine the most effective approaches that we should be taking."

The Islamist takeover of northern Mali is a growing worry for the United States and for France, the former colonial power, which maintains an interest in West Africa and has been pressing for international action.

Earlier this month, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution underscoring its "readiness" to send an international force to evict the militants in response to a request from a Mali government. While a military plan has yet to be drafted, the basic idea has been for forces from Nigeria and other African countries to help Mali's military mount a campaign against the militants. France, the United States and other countries would help with training, intelligence and logistics.

The support of Algeria, a regional power and neighbor of Mali, would be essential, diplomats say. Algeria, which waged a brutal war against militants in its own country, has one of the strongest militaries in the region and an active intelligence service.

Algeria, Niger, Mali and Mauritania have set up an intelligence center in the southern Algerian city of Tamanrasset to coordinate efforts against al-Qaida and other regional threats. …

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