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US to support French in Mali with aerial refueling

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States has decided to provide additional support to the French military in its war against Islamic militants in Mali by conducting aerial refueling missions.

The Pentagon says Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has told the French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, that U.S. Africa Command will provide the aerial refueling support. A Pentagon spokesman says the two defense officials discussed the refueling missions and other topics during a phone conversation Saturday.

U.S. aerial refueling planes would be a boost to air support for French ground forces as they enter areas of Mali that are controlled by al-Qaida-linked extremists.

The U.S. has already been helping France by transporting French troops and equipment to the West African nation.

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