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Mali PM arrives in Algiers after pledge of support

ALGIERS -- Malian Premier Diango Cissoko arrived in Algeria on Sunday a day after Algiers affirmed “unequivocal” support for its neighbor, where France and other nations are helping battle an Islamist insurgency.

Cissoko, accompanied by his Defense Minister Diaran Kone, was welcomed by his counterpart Abdelmalek Sellal at the start of the two-day visit, the official news agency APS reported.

Algerian foreign ministry spokesman Amar Belani said in a statement on Saturday that Algiers expresses its “unequivocal support for the Malian transitional authorities, with whom it maintains multifaceted relations, including in the military sphere.”

“It should be noted that Mali has asked, in line with its sovereignty, for friendly powers to reinforce its national capacities to fight terrorism,” Belani added.

Algeria has long defended the principle of noninterference, but did not oppose a U.N. resolution authorizing the intervention of an African military force in Mali if dialogue failed.

Algeria will “continue to work within its means to mobilize other countries in the region to provide the appropriate help in the struggle against this scourge,” President Abdelaziz Bouteflika told AFP in an interview last month.

Benin on Sunday pledged roughly 300 troops to take part in an African force aimed at helping Mali battle the Islamists, after Burkina Faso, Niger and Senegal had each pledged 500 troops the previous day.

The U.N. Security Council has approved a 3,300-strong force to help Mali win back its north. The force is to be commanded by a Nigerian, with Nigeria pledging the largest contribution so far at 600 troops.

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