Red-faced? Mali-bound RAF aircraft breaks down in Paris

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A C-17 transport aircraft like the one now stuck on the runway in Paris
A C-17 transport aircraft like the one now stuck on the runway in Paris

A British military transport plane en route to assist French forces in Mali made it as far as Paris before breaking down, a minister has confirmed to MPs.

The Foreign Office's Mark Simmonds confirmed one of the two C-17 Globemaster cargo planes on its way to north-west Africa was encountering technical problems in the French capital.

Embarrassment in the Ministry of Defence is likely to be underlined by plans to increase French and British defence cooperation in the coming years.

But France's government is likely to overlook the delay through relief at having secured support from the UK, after president Francois Hollande decided to intervene militarily to prevent Islamist rebels capturing the wartorn country's capital, Bamako.


Everything you need to know about the Mali conflict in five minutes

There are now around 550 French troops in Mali after a two-column rebel attack from its northern bases

Those bases are now under attack from French air raids, as a regional military force is assembled to push forward a ground offensive into the region, dominated by al-Qaida and its allies.

Simmonds told MPs the rebel territory held a "direct threat" to international security, adding: "We must not allow northern Mali to become a springboard for extremism."

British forces could end up in Mali as part of a European Union force providing training for troops in the region.

The UK has provided £59 million in humanitarian aid to Sahel region through multilateral organisations and a further £15 million in December 2011, Simmonds told MPs.

Martin Horwood, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson on foreign affairs, expressed concerns that genuine grievances of those in the north by non-jihadists could be ignored as a result of the French use of force.

"A political solution might be possible as well as a political response," he suggested, asking: "Can Britain ensure subtlety and negotiating skills are deployed alongside the Mirage jets?"

Simmonds said: "France, which has an historic relationship with Mali, is quite rightly in the lead. In the coming days we will be focused on the regional and international diplomacy we must achieve to meet this regional threat."

Anti-war veteran Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour backbencher, warned of the "unintended consequences" of assisting the French in a military intervention, however.

The minister said: "We were offering limited logistical support only."

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