UK & World News
Mali: Britain 'Not Sending' Ground Troops
British ground troops will not be drawn into combat operations against al Qaeda-backed rebels in Mali, ministers said.
French forces have been carrying out air attacks on Islamist rebels after they began moving south at the end of last week.
The UK has sent two cargo planes to help out, but the Foreign Office said Britain was providing only "limited logistical support" and there no plans to deploy ground forces to the West African state.
The first of the two giant RAF C-17 transport aircraft left Paris with supplies for the French force sent in by president Francois Hollande following an appeal for help by the Mali government.
A second C-17 was expected to leave on Tuesday after encountering what was described as a "minor technical fault" in the French capital.
Britain's Foreign Office Minister Mark Simmonds said a "small detachment of technical personnel" was already at the airport in the Mali capital, Bamako, to "operate and if necessary defend" the aircraft.
In a Commons statement he said David Cameron had made clear Britain was offering only limited back-up support when he spoke to Mr Hollande at the weekend.
"The Prime Minister has made categorically clear that the initial supporting deployment will be for a period of one week," he said.
"He has also made clear that there will be no combat troops from the UK involved and we have no plans to provide more military assistance."
Earlier Mr Cameron told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Britain would share its intelligence with France in their attempt to push the insurgents back.
Mr Cameron said: "I spoke to (French president) Francois Hollande over the weekend and offered the use of two C-17 transport planes - our most advanced and capable transport planes - because France is a strong ally and friend of Britain but (also because) what is being done in Mali is very much in our interests."
The US is providing intelligence-gathering assistance to the French in their assault, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said.
He also said US officials would not rule out having American aircraft land in Mali as part of future efforts to lend airlift and logistical support.
EU foreign ministers are to hold an extraordinary meeting this week, probably on Thursday, to discuss the situation.
Hundreds of French troops were deployed to the country on the weekend after the rebels overran the strategically important town of Konna - about halfway between Mali's northern and southern borders - on Thursday.
On Sunday, French forces forced back Islamists from the strategic town of Konna.
There had been fears that if their advance was not halted, they could have carried on all the way to the capital Bamako in the south.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said his forces were facing difficulties because the insurgents were heavily armed.
Despite French successes, Islamist forces still hold a huge swathe of the north of the country.
Insurgents responded to the French attacks by seizing the town of Diabali, about 250 miles (400km) north of Bamako.
The assault on the town was said to have been led by Abou Zaid, the leader of the African branch of al Qaeda, called al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Up to 60 Islamists are reported to have been killed in Sunday's air assaults, which were centred around Gao and Kidal.
A leader of one of the Islamist groups said he would strike at Europe in retaliation for the French action.
Abou Dardar, from the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), an offshoot of AQIM, told news agency AFP: "France has attacked Islam. We will strike at the heart of France."
When asked where they would attack, he added: "Everywhere. In Bamako, in Africa and in Europe."