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Sweden eyes Mali peacekeeping mission

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Sweden eyes Mali peacekeeping mission
11:00 CEST+02:00
The Swedish government wants to send troops and police officers to participate in UN peace keeping efforts in Mali, arguing it's "in Sweden's interests" to support peace and security in the west African nation.

"Sweden has extensive experience in these operations, and a mission in Mali would be yet another example of such participation," Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Development Aid Minister Gunilla Carlsson, and Defence Minister Karin Enström wrote in an article published in the Expressen newspaper outlining the proposal.

According to the proposal, Sweden would send around 70 people to participate in the UN-led mission, although up to 160 could ultimately be involved.

Sweden would contribute with airborne transport, flight safety support, and a national support unit, Defence Minister Karin Enström told the TT news agency.

The mission is expected to cost 80 million kronor ($12 million) in 2013 and 2014.

Last month, the UN Security Council said that it planned to send 11,200 soldiers and 1,440 police officers in Mali for a period of 12 months in what has been dubbed the MINUSMA (Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) programme. The project is scheduled to kick off on July 1st this year.

The Security Council wrote at the time that it strongly condemned the January offensive by armed groups towards the south and stressed that terrorism could only be defeated by a sustained and comprehensive approach to isolate the terrorist threat.

On Thursday, the Swedish ministers explained that sending troops to Mali was part of Sweden's "global responsibility".

"This is about a lack of development, decades of tension between different ethnic groups, uncertain access to food, widespread humanitarian need, increasing criminal activities and armed extremists," the ministers wrote.

"Our answer to help must therefore be broad. This is about security, about relieving acute distress, about sustainable development and about supporting political processes. And we must do all this together with the many international players who have been gathered to contribute to the Mali government and the Malian people."

The ministers added that 15 Swedish military instructors were already aiding the EU's efforts to educate and advise Mali's armed forces, claiming the operation was risk free.

"It is in Sweden's interest to contribute to international peace, security, and development in different ways. It is a part of our global responsibility. This is how our foreign policy tradition looks. And that is how we will continue to act," the ministers wrote.

Bildt explained that Swedish Hercules planes would carry out "tactical transports" and that Swedish troops would be in the field, but not out on patrol as they are in Afghanistan.

"No operation is risk free," he told TT.

While the current proposal limits the Swedish operation to one year, it's possible the mission could be extended.

The proposal will be discussed in parliament on Thursday.

TT/The Local/og

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