ALGEIRS, Algeria – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sought Algeria’s assistance on Monday for any future military intervention in Mali, pressing the North African nation to provide intelligence – if not boots on the ground – to help rout the al-Qaida-linked militants across its southern border.
Clinton, on the first stop of a five-day trip overseas, met with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as the United States and its allies ramped up preparations to fight northern Mali’s breakaway Islamist republic.
When Mali’s democratically elected leader was ousted in a military coup in March, Tuareg rebels seized on the power vacuum and within weeks took control of the north, aided by an Islamist faction. The Islamists then quickly ousted the Tuaregs and took control of half the country.
The U.N. Security Council has unanimously approved the idea of an African-led military force to help the Malian army oust Islamic militants, but its details are still unclear.
Any military intervention would likely require Algeria, whose reforms have headed off the Arab Spring tumult experienced by neighbors and left it with the strongest military and best intelligence in the region.
Clinton said she and Bouteflika spoke at length about Mali. She said they agreed to continue discussions with the U.N. and African nations “to determine the most effective approaches that we should be taking.”
From Algeria, Clinton left for three days of talks in the Balkans, arriving Monday night in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo.