London: Britain is set to deploy its transport aircraft to aid French military operations against Islamist rebels in Mali, as an escalation of hostilities has claimed more than 120 lives in the troubled West African country.
"The prime minister (David Cameron) spoke to President Hollande this evening to discuss the deteriorating situation in Mali and how the UK can support French military assistance provided to the Malian government to contain rebel and extremist groups in the north of the country," a spokeswoman said.
"Both leaders agreed that the situation in Mali poses a real threat to international security given terrorist activity there," she said.
Downing Street said two transport planes would be dispatched, but British troops would not join the French military mission to help recapture the north of Mali from al-Qaeda-linked rebels acting against the country`s government.
Cameron`s offer to transport foreign troops and equipment will involve Britain in a fresh conflict that could provoke terrorist reprisals against European targets, the Guardian reported.
President Francois Hollande has placed France on high alert as French planes bombarded targets in Mali.
The latest aerial bombardment led to the death of a French pilot, Damien Boiteux, and, according to a senior army officer in Mali, more than 100 rebel troops have also been killed following fighting for the strategic town of Konna.
Malian officials said 11 government soldiers had been killed in efforts to wrest the town from rebel control.
Human rights groups counted 10 civilian deaths.
France insists it is undertaking military operations in Mali, which had been a stable democracy until a military coup last March paved the way for the Islamist rebellion, to provide support to a West African troop deployment backed by the United Nations.
Regional economic bloc Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) has accelerated its efforts to send troops to the international campaign in Mali, authorising the immediate deployment of 3,300 troops.