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Republican leader says Obama must back France in fight against al-Qaida 'cancer' in Africa

Joe Penney / Reuters

French soldiers drive a military vehicle at a Malian air base in Bamako Tuesday. Some 50 French armored vehicles arrived in Mali late Monday from their military base in Ivory Coast.

A leading Republican called Tuesday for President Barack Obama to support France’s military intervention against the “cancer” of al-Qaida-linked militants in North Africa.

Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement that he welcomed France’s decision to send troops and warplanes “to combat this serious security threat” in Mali.

“The vast area of northern Mali gives these al Qaeda-linked militants space to operate, and the weapons flowing out of Libya makes them deadly. This cancer could not go unaddressed,” he said in the statement.

"This isn't avant garde for the French. They have shown leadership in working with Ivory Coast and other African governments to improve security.  Paris understands the high stakes,” he added. "I expect the Obama Administration to honor appropriate requests for intelligence and logistics support from France.”

Royce stressed that “we should have our ally's back" when dealing with the “shared threat.”

France has sent about 500 troops to Mali and is sending about 1,000 more along with armored vehicles.

They are taking on at least three Islamic militant groups, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Magreb, U.S. national security officials told NBC News Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The sources added that they were being helped by U.S. military and intelligence operations and that the U.S. would also provide transport and refueling capability for the operation. U.S. drones and spy satellites were also being used.

Panetta: No U.S. 'boots on ground'
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday at a press conference in Portugal that "there is no consideration of putting any American boots on the ground at this time" in Mali, The Associated Press reported.

He added that al-Qaida affiliates in Mali did not currently pose a threat to the United States but stressed "ultimately that remains their objective."

On Monday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters that “we share the French goal of denying terrorists a safe haven.”

In a statement released by the U.K.’s Foreign Office, political directors of the G8 group of leading nations said they had discussed the situation in Mali at a meeting in London Tuesday and “expressed grave concern.”

“They noted that it is essential to halt the offensive by terrorist groups towards southern Mali, to prevent the collapse of the Malian state, and to accelerate the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions in all their dimensions: political, security and humanitarian,” the statement said.

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