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Tue Jan 15, 2013 3:32AM
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan says Nigeria will send troops to Mali "before next week" to help its western neighbor battle rebels in the north. "Our technical team are already in Mali. So definitely the Nigeria troops will be in Mali before next week," AFP quoted the Nigerian president as saying on Monday. Nigeria plans to commit 600 soldiers as part of an African force being deployed to Mali as the crisis-hit nation, aided by the French military, tries to wrest control of northern areas from rebel fighters. "We are confronted presently with a situation in Mali, let me assure you and the global community that as a nation we will work with other nations to make sure that the problem in Mali is solved," Jonathan added. On Saturday, a presidential spokesman said Nigeria had already sent an air force technical team and the commander of a planned African-led force to Mali to help the country in its military operations in the north. UN Security Council members have been discussing an intervention force with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for months. The talks, however, got bogged down by questions of which countries would send how many troops, for how long, at whose expense. "Our expectation is that by next week most other ECOWAS countries that pledged troops would have sent them so that our men will be on ground to assist Mali to liberate the country," the Nigerian president said. France initiated military action in Mali on January 12, allegedly to halt the advance of the rebels who control the north of the West African nation. Chaos broke out in the West African country after Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure was toppled in a military coup on March 22, 2012. The coup leaders said they mounted the coup in response to the government's inability to contain the Tuareg rebellion in the north of the country, which had been going on for two months. However, in the wake of the coup d’état, the Tuareg rebels took control of the entire northern desert region, but the Ansar Dine extremists then pushed them aside and took control of the region, which is larger than France or Texas. MN/HGL