West African leaders discuss Mali troop deployment

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West African military chiefs met in Bamako on Tuesday to discuss plans to speed up the deployment of 3,300 regional troops in an effort to push Islamist rebels out of northern Mali.

Leaders from the Economic Community of West African States gathered to decide on a deployment schedule, with some West African troops set to be on the ground in a week's time.

Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Guinea have all offered troops.

The original timetable for the UN-sanctioned African force did not initially foresee full deployment before September due to logistical constraints.

But the plan has been fast-tracked after a plea for help by Mali's government after mobile columns of Islamist fighters began threatening key settlements.

France has already poured hundreds of troops into Mali and has kept up air strikes on Islamist militant targets.

Their mission has been aided by deliveries of military equipment by British RAF C-17 cargo planes.