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We must ‘root out’ Al-Qaeda from Mali: Nigerian president

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Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (AFP/File, John Macdougall)

ABUJA — The west African regional bloc ECOWAS is committed to restoring peace to Mali and ensuring that Al-Qaeda is pushed out of the country’s north, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said Friday.

“We must take action to root out the Al-Qaeda, drug traffickers, kidnappers and other criminal elements who are turning northern Mali into a home for terrorists,” he said during a meeting with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

Jonathan, who visited Mali recently, sought the support of Germany and the European Union, an official statement from his office said.

“The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is committed to restoring peace and normalcy to Mali, and therefore seeks the support of German and the European Union,” he told Westerwelle.

Jonathan said contact with Malians during his visit there showed a desire for peace and a commitment to removing the rebels from northern Mali.

He said that Nigeria’s contribution to Mali would include technical support for the military, the statement said.

ECOWAS has decided to deploy a regional force to Mali, where a coup overthrew President Amadou Toumani Toure on March 22.

The north of the west African nation fell under the control of armed Islamist groups, some linked to Al-Qaeda, in the wake of the coup.

On October 12, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution preparing for the deployment of such a force for Mali, giving ECOWAS 45 days to firm up its plans.

Westerwelle, who arrived in Nigeria from Mali for a meeting of a bilateral commission, said his country was interested in the destiny of the sub-region, and was willing to help restore peace and normalcy to Mali.

Westerwelle said at the start of the meeting that Germany would work with Nigeria “to overcome the threats and the challenges in the region.”

Afterward, he said: “We cannot accept that terrorist activities find a new safe haven in north of Mali and work from this safe haven and bring their terror and their atrocities all over the world, including Europe.”

He added: “We discussed what we can do together to work against these terrorist activities of foreigners in the north of Mali. We are clearly committed to cooperate with Nigeria, of course with ECOWAS and the African Union. This is our common responsibility.”

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