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EU agrees Mali support mission 'in principle'

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(BRUSSELS) - EU foreign ministers agreed in principle Monday to send a military training mission to Mali to support regional African efforts to wrest control of the north of the country from armed Islamists.

Under the plan, some 250 European officers would be sent to train Malian combat units and help restructure the country's weakened army in a mission that could start as early as January and last through the year.

The training mission, to cost some five to six million euros a year, would run in conjunction with an African Union plan for military intervention in Mali, where Islamists seized control of its desert north in the wake of a March coup in Bamako.

The African Union last week announced the deployment of AFISMA, the African-led mission in support of Mali, and said it had urged the United Nations to authorise its deployment for an initial period of one year.

West African leaders at an emergency summit in Abuja earlier this month approved a 3,300-strong force for Mali, once one of the more stable democracies .

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