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Pentagon chief hails French action in Mali

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks in Washington, DC on February 27, 2013
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks in Washington, DC on February 27, 2013. Hagel on Wednesday hailed France's military intervention in Mali in a phone call with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, thanking Paris for its "active leadership,

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday hailed France's military intervention in Mali in a phone call with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, thanking Paris for its "active leadership," officials said.

The Pentagon chief, who took office last month, "reaffirmed US appreciation to the French for their active leadership in addressing security challenges in Mali," press secretary George Little said in a statement.

"He noted that Mali operations are a good example of building an alliance with common interests to deal with shared threats and challenges," Little said.

The two leaders agreed to look for a chance to meet "in the near future," he said.

France sent troops to Mali on January 11 to prevent Islamists in the north from pushing south to the capital Bamako.

After initially hesitating, the United States has backed the French-led action with logistical support, sending transport planes, surveillance drones and refueling tankers to boost the campaign.

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