UK should support France in Mali, says ex-PM Tony Blair


Tony Blair has called on the UK to do “everything we can” to support French military operations in Mali.

Failure to tackle the rebels will make it a haven for extremism that will have repercussions on the shores of Europe, the former prime minister warned today.

Britain has sent two C-17 transport planes to Mali to support French forces fighting rebels with links to al-Qa'ida who are attempting to overthrow the west African nation's government.

The UK Government is considering increasing logistical support for the military campaign but Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted the UK is "not seeking a combat role".

"If you don't intervene and you let these countries become terrorist states they will threaten the rest of the world," Mr Blair told Sky News.

"If Mali is allowed to be taken over by these people, don't be under any doubt what will happen. That country will become a haven for this extremism, it will spread into sub-Saharan Africa, it will go back through the north of Africa.

"It will, in the end, come to the shores of Europe and the West."

He added: "If we don't intervene in Mali, we shouldn't for a moment think that Mali will stay a problem for Mali.

"The lesson of those countries that are taken over by this ideology based on a perversion of the religion of Islam, the fact is, they are extraordinarily well motivated, unfortunately they are well armed, they are sometimes well financed and they have a fanatical belief in what they do."

The US military has begun airlifting French soldiers and equipment to Mali.

Mr Blair said: "I think it is unlikely, from everything that has been said, that British forces, that boots on the ground, will be offered but, of course, we should do everything we can to help and the international community should support France. It's a very courageous decision the French president has taken and the French people, I think, are with them in that but it's going to be difficult."