Harper, African Union head to meet in Ottawa on Tuesday
International cooperation minister says Canada does not anticipate going to Mali
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be meeting with Thomas Boni Yayi, the head of the African Union and president of Benin, in Ottawa on Tuesday.
Boni Yayi's meeting with Harper could bring a request for Canadian troops to be involved in an international mission in Mali, according to The Canadian Press.
But in an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, International Cooperation Minister Julian Fantino told host Evan Solomon that while "Canada remains very concerned about the situation in Mali, we do not anticipate going there."
When asked if Canada was considering more foreign aid to Mali, Fantino said "if we can translate our aid to the people ... we will continue to do all we can."
Speaking in Halifax last Sunday, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said that Canada could be willing to send troops to help train African forces.
"What I can tell you is that we are contemplating what contribution Canada could make," MacKay said at an announcement related to rental housing rates on military bases.
UN approves military operation in Mali
The United Nations Security Council backed a proposal in December to send an African-led force of 3,300 soldiers into the country but the resolution also called for broader international assistance.
A military coup last year created a power vacuum in Mali that's led to the rise of armed groups linked to al-Qaida in the country's northern region.
As the president of the African Union, Boni Yayi was instrumental in convincing the United Nations that international intervention was needed.
And the African Union, along with a coalition of West African states, is now responsible for putting the resolution into action.
Mali, a landlocked country bordering on Algeria and Niger, has been one of the biggest recipients of Canada's foreign aid.
Canadian special forces were active in the west African country for several training missions prior to the coup and before Islamic Maghreb – known as AQIM – overran much of the northern portion of the impoverished nation.
"Benin is a democratic African partner that continues to make impressive progress in the areas of economic and institutional reform while promoting regional stability," said Harper in a statement Sunday.
"I look forward to meeting with (President Boni Yayi) to explore ways of expanding commercial relations and contributing further to Benin's development."
With files from CBC News