Panetta: US studying legal basis for helping France in Mali

ROME - The United States takes the French fight with al-Qaida-affiliated militants in Mali "very seriously" but must evaluate French military needs and the legal basis for US action before providing aid, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Wednesday.
Panetta, speaking to reporters in Rome, said the United States already was providing information to Paris to help French forces in their effort to disrupt the advance of Islamist groups in Mali until the ECOWAS grouping of African nations can put troops on the ground.
"The administration takes this very seriously and they have indeed been reviewing areas where assistance can be provided," said Panetta, who is on a week-long trip to Europe that will likely be his last as defense secretary. "I'm confident that we're going to be able to provide that assistance."