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Canada says will provide transport plane for anti-rebel campaign in Mali

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will send a military transport plane to provide temporary heavy-lift support for a French campaign against Islamist rebels in Mali, the government said on Monday.

"While the Government of Canada is not, and will not be, considering a direct Canadian military mission in Mali, Canada is prepared ... to provide limited and clearly defined logistical support to assist the forces that are intervening in Mali," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement.

Acting on a French request, a giant C-17 cargo aircraft will fly from Canada to France and then on to the Malian capital Bamako, where it will unload, Harper said. The plane will be made available for a week.

Al Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels launched a counteroffensive in Mali on Monday after four days of French air strikes on their northern strongholds.

"(We are) deeply concerned by recent events in Mali. The establishment of a terrorist region in the middle of Africa is of grave concern to the broader international community, including Canada and our close allies," said Harper.

Canada's appetite for military intervention is low following a five-year mission to Afghanistan, which ended in 2011 after 158 soldiers were killed.

Britain has made available two C-17 transport planes which will ferry French medical gear, tanks and other equipment to Mali this week.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Paul Simao and Mohammad Zargham)

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