OTTAWA - Canada is contributing one of its large C-17 military cargo planes to deliver supplies to the capital of Mali after a request from France.

But Prime Minister Stephen Harper insists no Canadian Forces personnel will be involved in any combat action in the landlocked West African country. And he says the transport plane commitment will be short.

An al-Qaida-linked group has seized the northern part of Mali and is advancing south.

The Canadian plane will be used to transport equipment and supplies into the Malian capital of Bamako, which is not in the combat zone.

France, which began air strikes last week against insurgents in the north, has ordered the immediate evacuation of all French nationals living in the Malian town of Segou.

"There is a serious situation in northern Mali, where there is a large territory now occupied by essentially terrorist entities, who are looking at expanding their influence throughout Africa," Harper said at a Montreal news conference.

"This is a serious enough matter that it has been the subject of a United Nations Security Council resolution supported by all permanent members demanding that there be some kind of international action.

"Our allies, the French, have decided to take the lead on that and have requested specifically from a number of allies, including Canada, very limited and defined support in the form of heavy lift logistical support."

The C-17 has been committed for only a week.

"We will obviously after a few days analyze how that is going and talk with our allies but, this is intended to be of a short duration," the prime minister said.

The real solution must rely on African-led participation, but in the meantime, Canada will lend a hand to the French, he said.

"We think that is an appropriate role for Canada, given our relative capacities and interests."

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  • French Gazelle military helicopters, flying back from the city of Timbuktu, arrive at the French army base camp airport on January 28, 2013 in Sevare. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • This picture provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) and released Monday Jan. 28, 2013 shows Chadian soldiers securing Gao airport, north of Mali, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Ghislain Mariette, EMA-ECPAD)

  • This picture provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) and released Monday Jan. 28, 2013 shows a Chadian soldier securing Gao airport, north of Mali, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Ghislain Mariette, EMA-ECPAD)

  • This picture provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) and released Monday Jan. 28, 2013 shows a Chadian soldier securing Gao airport, north of Mali, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Ghislain Mariette, EMA-ECPAD)

  • This picture provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) and released Monday Jan. 28, 2013 shows a Chadian soldier securing Gao airport, north of Mali, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Ghislain Mariette, EMA-ECPAD)

  • This picture provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) and released Monday Jan. 28, 2013 shows Malians soldiers arriving at Gao airport, north of Mali, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Ghislain Mariette, EMA-ECPAD)

  • This picture provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) and released Monday Jan. 28, 2013 shows Malian soldiers boarding a French Transall military plane in Bamako, Mali, Saturday Jan. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Ghislain Mariette, EMA-ECPAD)

  • This picture provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) and released Monday Jan. 28, 2013 shows Malian soldiers boarding a French Transall military plane in Bamako, Mali, Saturday Jan. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Ghislain Mariette, EMA-ECPAD)

  • French Gazelle military helicopters, flying back from the city of Timbuktu, arrive at the French army base camp airport on January 28, 2013 in Sevare. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A French Gazelle military helicopter, flying back from the city of Timbuktu, arrives at the French army base camp airport on January 28, 2013 in Sevare. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A French Gazelle military helicopter, flying back from the city of Timbuktu, arrives at the French army base camp airport on January 28, 2013 in Sevare. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A French Gazelle military helicopter, flying back from the city of Timbuktu, arrives at the French army base camp airport on January 28, 2013 in Sevare. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A Malian soldier stands at a checkpoint near Sevare on January 27, 2013. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A Malian soldier stands at a checkpoint near Sevare on January 27, 2013. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Malian soldiers wait at a checkpoint near Sevare on January 27, 2013. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Malian soldiers wait at a checkpoint near Sevare on January 27, 2013. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • French soldiers are waiting the arrival of the French Defence Minister before their departure to Mali on January 25, 2013 at the Miramas ZRA (Zone de Regroupement et d'Attente) military base, southern France, as part of the French military operation codenamed Serval.(GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A Bin Laden sticker adorns the tank of a small motorcycle in Mopti, some 630 kms (400 miles) north of Mali's capital Bamako Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • French soldiers return from patrol in Sevare, some 620 kms (400 miles) north of Mali's capital Bamako Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • A U.S. Air Force transport aircraft with French military personnel and equipment aboard takes off for Mali from Istres airbase, near Marseille, southern France, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

  • A French soldier stands guard as he arrives in the city of Diabaly, on January 21, 2013. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A French soldier deployed near city of Diabaly keeps post from a machine gun mounted vehicle on January 22, 2013. (SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Residents look at an abandoned Malian army tank in Diabaly on January 22, 2013. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Malians walk past a burnt pickup truck mounted with a machine gun, which was formerly used by Islamists and destroyed after air strikes by the French air force a week ago, at a Malian military base which had been temporarily captured by Islamists, in Diabaly, on January 22, 2013. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A French soldier deployed in Diabaly patrol on January 22, 2013. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A man and woman on a scooter ride past a Malian soldier controlling a strategic bridge on the Niger river on January 22, 2013 near Markala, 270km North of Bamako. (ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A French soldier stands next to a military truck near Malian army buildings which were taken by Islamic jihadists before being destroyed during aerial bombings, in the city of Diabaly, on January 21, 2013. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • French soldiers arrive in the city of Diabaly, on January 21, 2013. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • French soldiers arrive in the Malian town of Diabaly on January 21, 2013. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A French Legionaire stands guard as groups from various units of the Air Force, Ground Army (Armee de Terre) and the French Foreign Legion fly out for a military operation in the north of Mali on January 21, 2013. (FABIO BUCCIARELLI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A foreign press photographer shoots pictures of a man holding a French flg on a street of Bamako on January 17, 2013. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A picture taken with a mobile phone on January 12, 2013 reportedly shows Islamist insurgents in Gao. (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A Malian man sells flags, including French ones, on a street of Bamako on January 17, 2013. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A Malian man sells souvenirs, including French ones, on a street of Bamako on January 17, 2013. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • French helicopters are towed to the military side of Bamako's airport Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, during a joined visit to French and Malian troops by Mali's President Dioncounda Traore and French Ambassador to Mali Christian Rouyer. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • Mali National Guard soldiers stand guard on the military side of Bamako's airport Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, as a commercial jet takes off during a joined visit to French and Malian troops by Mali's President Dioncounda Traore and French Ambassador to Mali Christian Rouyer. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • Mali's President Dioncounda Traore, center, visits the troops on the military side of Bamako's airport, Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • Mali army cadets secure a perimeter on the military side of Bamako's airport Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, during a joined visit to French and Malian troops by Mali's President Dioncounda Traore and French Ambassador to Mali Christian Rouyer. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • Mali National Guard soldiers stand guard on the military side of Bamako's airport Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, during a joined visit to French and Malian troops by Mali's President Dioncounda Traore and French Ambassador to Mali Christian Rouyer. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • A Mali National Guard soldier stands guard on the military side of Bamako's airport Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, during a joined visit to French and Malian troops by Mali's President Dioncounda Traore and French Ambassador to Mali Christian Rouyer. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • A Mali gendarme directs traffic on the military side of Bamako's airport Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, during a joined visit to French and Malian troops by Mali's President Dioncounda Traore and French Ambassador to Mali Christian Rouyer. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • A Malian soldier stands guard on the military side of Bamako's airport Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, during a joined visit to French and Malian troops by Mali's President Dioncounda Traore and French Ambassador to Mali Christian Rouyer. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • Mali National Guard soldiers stand guard on the military side of Bamako's airport Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, during a joined visit to French and Malian troops by Mali's President Dioncounda Traore and French Ambassador to Mali Christian Rouyer. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • This night vision photo provided by the ECPAD/French Army shows French military armored vehicles on Bamako airport, Tuesday, Jan.15, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeremy Lempin, ECPAD, EMA)

  • This photo provided by the ECPAD/French Army shows a Rafale jetfighter flying over Mali, Tuesday, Jan.15, 2013. (AP Photo/Adj Nicolas-Nelson Richard, ECPAD, EMA)

  • This photo provided by the ECPAD/French Army shows French soldiers carrying ammunition at Bamako airport, Tuesday, Jan.15, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeremy Lempin, ECPAD, EMA)

  • This photo provided by the ECPAD/French Army shows a Rafale jet fighter refueling over Mali, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Adj Nicolas-Nelson Richard, ECPAD, EMA)

  • Members of pro-Islamic human rights groups gather in front of the French consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 to protest against France's military intervention in Mali. (AP Photo)

  • Members of pro-Islamic human rights groups shout slogans in front of the French consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 to protest against France's military intervention in Mali. (AP Photo)

  • An Ivorian officer (sitting) and other ECOWAS army officers prepare a document during a meeting of chiefs of staff on January 16, 2013 at the Mali peacekeeping traning center in Bamako. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A soldier stands guard during a meeting by ECOWAS chiefs of staff on January 16, 2013 at the Mali peacekeeping traning center in Bamako. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)