Britain is due to discuss sending military trainers to support a West African intervention force in Mali in a potential further deepening of the UK's involvement in the French-led operation to oust Islamist militants.
Reports have suggested that up to 200 troops could be involved in helping the planned regional (Ecowas) force take over from the French who have driven back the rebels from large swathes of the north of the country.
Deputy national security director Hugh Powell will discuss the potential UK contribution at an international donors conference for Mali hosted by the African Union in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
At the same time in Brussels, defence officials will be discussing details of the planned European Union training mission to build up the Malian army, which could include up to 40 British personnel.
Prime Minister David Cameron has assured French President Francois Hollande that Britain is "keen" to help Paris with its military mission.
The RAF has already provided two heavy-lift C-17 transport planes and a Sentinel surveillance aircraft to assist France's operation, and National Security Adviser Sir Kim Darroch was in Paris on Monday to discuss what further help may be offered.
Mr Cameron has said the UK is ready to offer logistical, intelligence and surveillance help to France, although he has ruled out a combat role for British troops.
As French troops swept into the historic city of Timbuktu, the former head of the British Army, General Sir Mike Jackson, warned that nations involved may face a "protracted guerrilla warfare".
"It doesn't really surprise me that the British Government feels it needs to be seen to be helping," he said. "We cannot let states fail because we know from recent history that failed states just lead to really difficult circumstances, instability.
"What Mali and France, and indeed other countries who may choose to assist may face, of course, is a protracted guerrilla warfare taking place away from the conurbations."
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