BRUSSELS, Jan 14 (Reuters) - The European Union has no plans to give any combat role to its upcoming military training mission in Mali, an EU foreign policy spokesman said on Monday, following France's intervention in the sub-Saharan state against al Qaeda-linked Islamists last week.
The European Union plans to speed up preparations to send military trainers for the Malian army. This mission is now expected to start in late February or early March.
But the format of the mission will not be changed for now, spokesman Michael Mann told a daily briefing. When asked whether he could rule out a combat mission by the European Union, he said: "Yes, I can."
Islamist rebels in Mali launched a counter-offensive on Monday after three days of strikes by French fighter jets on their strongholds in the desert north.
France is determined to end Islamist domination of northern Mali, which many fear could act as a launchpad for attacks on the West and a base for coordination with al Qaeda in Yemen, Somalia and North Africa.