Algeria rides wave of war despite its support for political solution in Mali
PARIS - Algeria has authorised French warplanes to use its airspace for bombing raids on neighbouring Mali, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Sunday.
Fabius, who was speaking after French Rafale fighter jets bombed Islamist bases near Gao in northern Mali from their base in France, said Algeria's cooperation was indicative of the extent of international support for the intervention in Mali.
"Algeria has authorised the overflight of its territory, for which I thank them," Fabius said, adding that France was hopeful Algeria would provide further help to the campaign by denying Islamist radicals an escape route from the north of Mali.
"We are working with the Algerians and our discussions are ongoing. What we have in mind is that if African troops move into the north of the country the Algerians will have to close their border."
Algeria had been the most reticent of Mali's neighbours about the prospect of foreign troops being sent in to reclaim control of the north of the country, which the Islamists have occupied for some nine months.
Fabius said France had been forced to act by last week's advance by Islamist forces to positions in central Mali from which they could have mounted an attack on the capital, Bamako.
"We responded to an appeal for help from the government of Mali and in the framework of international law," he insisted.
"If we had not intervened there would have been no more Mali and we would have had a terrorist state.
"This may change but, for the moment, no state has raised the slightest objection."
Fabius reiterated that France's objectives were limited to stopping the advance of the Islamists, which he said had been achieved, and preparing the ground for an African force to deploy and help Mali regain control of all its territory.
He said this mission should take a matter of weeks rather than months.