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Trudeau shrugs off pressure to make decision on Mali peacekeeping mission

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shrugged off calls Friday for a decision on whether to send troops to Mali, saying his government will take the “appropriate” time needed to decide on a peacekeeping mission.

Diplomatic sources have expressed growing impatience and frustration with what they call foot-dragging by the government after the Liberals promised last August to make up to 600 troops available for peacekeeping.

The government was leaning toward a deployment to Mali, where the UN has been charged with stabilizing the country after the central government and Tuareg rebels signed a peace agreement in 2015. The UN was hoping Canada would contribute transport helicopters as well as intelligence capabilities and even a force commander to the endeavour, considered the most dangerous peacekeeping mission in the world.

Several cabinet ministers visited the West African country last year, as did military planners, development officials from Global Affairs Canada and others to see how Canada could contribute to the UN mission.

But nine months after touting Canada’s return to peacekeeping, the government still hasn’t decided whether to send Canadian troops to Mali — or anywhere else, for that matter.

Two Western diplomats interviewed this week said their countries have not received any explanation for the delay, which they say has caused problems on the ground in Mali. The UN had hoped Canada would replace a squadron of Dutch transport helicopters that one diplomat said had to be withdrawn from Mali because of technical issues.

Canadian officials, meanwhile, asked the world body to hold off on announcing a commander for the UN mission, known as Minusma, until they could consult with the Trump administration.

Germany and Belgium stepped into the breach when the Liberals continued to equivocate, committing both helicopters and a Belgian general to lead the UN mission, until Canada could make a decision.

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SOURCE: Lee Berthiaume
The Canadian Press 

BCNN1 • May 13, 2017

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