Mali Premier in Algeria after pledge of support
ALGIERS - Malian Prime Minister Diango Cissoko visited Algeria on Sunday a day after Algiers proclaimed "unequivocal" support for its neighbour, where France is helping battle an Islamist insurgency.
Cissoko, accompanied by his Defence Minister Diaran Kone, was welcomed by his counterpart Abdelmalek Sellal at the start of the two-day visit, the official news agency APS reported.
The delegation is expected to hold talks with Sellal ahead of a meeting Monday with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Malian sources said.
Algerian officials said the talks will focus on bolstering cooperation between the two countries and with partners outside the region to eradicate terrorism and organised crime, which threaten stability in the Sahel region.
Foreign ministry spokesman Amar Belani said in a statement on Saturday that Algeria 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 non-interference, but did not oppose a UN resolution authorising the intervention of an African military force in Mali if dialogue failed.
Algeria will "continue to work within its means to mobilise other countries in the region to provide the appropriate help in the struggle against this scourge," President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said in an interview last month.
Terrorism in northern Mali, which has been overrun by Al-Qaeda linked Islamists, is a "global threat that has no nationality, region or religious affiliation," he said in a written reply to questions.
France has intervened in Mali at Bamako's request following a new offensive toward the south by the Islamists, who seized control of the country's north in June.
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 UN 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.
French Mirage fighter jets on Sunday pounded Mali for a third straight day and a top Islamist leader was reported killed.
Meanwhile an emergency summit on Mali of leaders from west African bloc ECOWAS scheduled for Wednesday in Abidjan has been postponed to Saturday, Ivory Coast African Integration Minister Ally Coulibaly said on Sunday.