Germany on Wednesday offered to send two military transport aircraft for troops fighting Islamist militants in Mali, as the head of west Africa's regional bloc ECOWAS visited Berlin.
Chancellor Angela Merkel was meeting Cote d'Ivoire President, Alassane Ouattara, the current chair of the Economic Community of West African States, in Berlin.
ECOWAS is preparing for the deployment of a 3,300-strong force to help Malian troops and French forces fight the Islamist extremists who last year overran Mali's north.
Germany stressed that it would not send combat troops, but its Defence Minister, Thomas de Maiziere, said on Wednesday it was ready to send two Transall C-160 transport aircraft to support the ECOWAS force.
``This measure can start immediately," he said, adding that only some technical issues had to be ironed out. The deployment, unlike a combat mission, does not require approval by the German parliament.
The initial contribution was smaller than the four C-160s plus one Airbus A310 Germany is considering sending.
Germany's military operates 60 Transall, which are up to four decades old but considered a reliable work horse for the air force. Seven are now being used in Afghanistan.
------DAILY TIMES NIGERIA