DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — British Prime Minister David Cameron shrugged off the possibility that his country may vote to leave the European Union, and argued Thursday that his vision of a changed Europe on Britain's terms is eminently achievable.
In an interview with The Associated Press at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos, Cameron said he wanted to achieve change in Europe "so that we can secure Britain's place within it."
His comments come a day after he rattled nerves and raised ire across Europe by offering British citizens the prospect of a vote on whether to stay in the 27-country EU. "We trust the people to take that choice," he said.
"But what I want to achieve is change in Europe, to make it more open, competitive and flexible," he said. "That is what I'm going to be fighting for over the coming years. It's the right agenda for Britain, it's the right agenda for Europe, and I think it is eminently achievable."
His promise of a vote if his Conservative Party wins the next general election, expected in 2015, formed the backdrop to discussions he had with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The two met Thursday at the forum, an annual gathering of political and business leaders where his referendum offer was one of the hottest topics for debate.
In the interview with The AP, Cameron also ruled out the prospect of sending British combat troops to Mali. However, he said Britain will offer more help to a French-led force that is battling Islamist extremists who are threatening a swath of northwest Africa.
"We're not going to get involved in sending combat troops to Mali. That isn't the role we're going to play," he said. Britain is supporting the operation with C-17 transport planes and logistics support, and British trainers will help Nigerian and other West African troops provide security in the region, he said.
"We'll be giving the (French) other assistance as well," he added, without elaborating.