Canada is still "several months" away from deploying peacekeepers to Mali in support of a UN mission, an official said Thursday, rejecting a UN envoy's call to accelerate its plans.
"Details regarding the final structure and chain of command of the Canadian mission in Mali are still to be determined," Byrne Furlong, spokeswoman for Canada's defense minister, told AFP.
Questions over who will command or oversee the Canadian troops and military equipment and other mission details "will be addressed during upcoming reconnaissance and negotiations with the United Nations," she said.
"It is important to keep in mind that preparing for a mission can take several months," she added.
Ottawa said in March that it would send an infantry unit, military trainers and six tactical and transport helicopters to Mali in August.
But UN envoy to Mali Mahamat Saleh Annadif said this week the helicopters are needed in June, when Germany pulls out of the mission.
He urged that Canada speed things up or that Germany delay its departure in order to avoid a vacuum.
The UN envoy also asked Canada to reconsider its objections to having Canadian soldiers join a rapid response force in the region, where conflict has claimed the lives of seven UN peacekeepers this year alone.
However, he said he has not received a reply.
The number of troops and the skill sets to be brought to the mission "will be determined as a result of the planning process and engagement with the UN, partners and the host nation," said Furlong.