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Trudeau visits peacekeepers in Mali, defends decision not to extend mission

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way from a Chinook helicopter to watch a medical evacuation demonstration on the UN base in Gao, Mali, Saturday, December 22, 2018.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
December 23, 2018 - 6:00 AM

GAO, Mali - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is returning from Mali this evening after paying a surprise visit to Canadian peacekeepers at their hot and dusty UN base there only days before Christmas.

The trip was Trudeau's first — and likely only — visit to the West African nation, where about 250 Canadian peacekeepers have been providing lifesaving medical evacuations and transporting equipment and personnel.

After watching a mock evacuation and serving the peacekeepers a pre-Christmas dinner, Trudeau told the troops they were continuing the Canadian military's long tradition of helping around the world.

Yet even as he emphasized the importance of bringing peace to Mali, the prime minister defended his government's refusal to extend Canada's mission by several months next summer.

Romanian peacekeepers will take over in Mali next year, but they aren't expected to arrive until several months after the Canadians have stopped operations.

Sources say the United Nations wants Canada to extend its mission to prevent a gap.

Trudeau, whose government also has yet to deploy a promised transport aircraft to Uganda and a 200-strong rapid reaction force for the UN, played down the effects of a gap and said Canada and the UN are working to ensure a smooth transition.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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