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Europe’s foreign ministers have approved sending troops to help train the Malian army to fight back against Islamist militants.

EU troops are not expected to take part in combat operations, although France’s top diplomat hinted that may change.

“It is possible but it remains the responsiblilty of the other countries involved whether they decide not only to provide logistical support, but also to provide combat troops. But we cannot force them to do it,” said Laurent Fabius, French Foreign Ministers.

Islamists have taken control of large parts of northern Mali and EU officials argue they could use it as a base to plot terrorist attacks.

Mali’s Foreign Minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly praised his EU counterparts for providing his country’s army with training assistance.

“All European countries today declared their support, not only for the action taken by the French Foreign Minister, but also for what we are doing on the ground,” he told reporters.

The mission is expected to last 15 months at the cost of some 12 million euros.

Ministers will need to meet again to agree upon the actual start date of operations

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