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Norway Mulls Sending Army Personnel to Help Mali Fight Militants

Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Norway, which is still missing five citizens after a hostage siege in Algeria, is considering joining a European Union mission to Mali to help train soldiers backing French troops who are fighting Islamist militants.

Norway, which isn’t a member of the EU, has received an informal request from neighboring Sweden to contribute army officers and instructors, Elisabeth Kjaer, a Defense Ministry spokeswoman, said by phone today. While the government has yet to respond, Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide and Defense Minister Anne-Grete Stroem-Erichsen are open to offering army support, she said, confirming comments in local newspaper Aftenposten.

“It’s about stabilizing a region,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Kjetil Elsebutangen said in a phone interview from Oslo. “Military contributions are one element, but far from the only one. The efforts to create stable states, support of the rule of law, building institutions, are also an important contribution.”

Norway is still missing five of its citizens after last week’s terrorist siege on an Algerian gas complex that left at least 38 hostages dead. The attackers struck a plant run jointly by Statoil ASA, the 67 percent state-owned Norwegian company, BP Plc and Algeria’s Sonatrach.

Al-Qaeda

Militants of the al-Qaeda-linked al Mulathameen group claimed responsibility for the attack, which they said was a reaction to the deployment of French troops to stop jihadists taking over neighboring Mali. The group has said other attacks could follow.

The EU last week decided to speed up the deployment of its training mission that will assist troops in Mali, and to spend 50 million euros ($67 million) to support West-African soldiers.

Togo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Senegal, Benin and Ghana have pledged to contribute troops to the African-led International Support Mission to Mali, or Afisma. The force was conceived by the African Union before France’s airstrikes and is assembling in the Malian capital Bamako this week.

The force is set to reach 5,500, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Europe1 radio on Jan. 20, exceeding an earlier plan of 3,300.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mikael Holter in Oslo at mholter2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jonas Bergman in Oslo on at jbergman@bloomberg.ne

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