Hague sidesteps Mali soldiers call
Foreign Secretary William Hague has left the door open to British combat troops being deployed in Mali.
Ministers this week insisted the Government was acutely aware of the risk of mission creep as it provides assistance to French forces involved in attempts to drive Islamist militants from the region, but insisted there were no plans to put British boots on the ground.
Mr Hague said that remained the Government's intention but sidestepped calls to guarantee that UK troops would not be sucked into the conflict at a later date. He told BBC 1's Sunday Politics: "There are no combat troops at all in this deployment and there are no plans to send combat troops."
Asked if he could give a commitment that there would never be any combat troops involved, he replied: "You can't foresee every situation but I can absolutely say we have no plans or current intention to do that."
Mr Hague also warned the risks from unstable regions meant the world was a more dangerous place than in recent times.
Asked if the world faced more danger than it had during the previous two decades, Mr Hague said: "Yes, I do think so. It is less stable."
The Government is sending 200 UK military advisers to help train a West African intervention force and Britain has offered 40 personnel to a European Union (EU) training mission to build up the fledgling Malian army.
Earlier, former prime minister Tony Blair said Britain was right to intervene in Mali but warned the West faced a "long and messy" fight against al Qaida. He said French president Francois Hollande had made a "courageous" decision to intervene in Mali,
Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr show, he said: "We always want in the West, quite naturally, to go in and go out, and think there is a clean result. It's not going to happen like that. We now know that. It is going to be long and difficult and messy. My point is very simple though: if you don't intervene and let it happen, it is also going to be long, difficult and messy, and possibly a lot worse. It's a very difficult decision."
Mr Blair also warned that all options should be considered when it came to finding a solution to Syria, warning president Bashar Assad that he would eventually be defeated. He added: "I do think that there are certain things we could do to strengthen the opposition and make it clear to Assad that in the end he is not going to win this, and he is not going to have a stalemate. It will end in defeat and it will end in his going, so the question is that is he prepared to do this on a basis that will allow us some chance to stabilise the country afterwards?"