Green light for Congo peacekeeping mission

21st March 2006, Comments 0 comments

21 March 2006, BRUSSELS — The political decision was taken on Monday to send a European Union peacekeeping force to the Democratic Republic of Congo to help secure national elections in the former Belgian colony in June.

21 March 2006

BRUSSELS — The political decision was taken on Monday to send a European Union peacekeeping force to the Democratic Republic of Congo to help secure national elections in the former Belgian colony in June.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the "green light" for the mission was given at an EU council of ministers meeting.

The United Nations asked the EU at the start of this year to deploy troops to help safeguard Congo's first free presidential and parliamentary vote since its independence in 1961.

The UN said its 17,000 peacekeepers already in the Congo are overstretched and need EU support for the coming elections.

And following the go-ahead on Monday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said his nation is prepared to lead the EU mission despite domestic opposition.

France is prepared to take charge in the Congolese capital Kinshasa and Germany will command overall mission headquarters in Potsdam, near Berlin.

Both France and Germany are expected to commit 500 troops each to the mission, but are waiting on confirmed commitments from other nations.

At least 10 and up to 14 EU countries could take part in the Congo mission. Spain and Portugal would each send 100 soldiers, Sweden up to 50 and Belgium about 40.

Belgian Defence Minister André Flahaut said Belgium is also prepared to deploy a number of unmanned reconnaissance planes.

However, the nation's small deployment of military personnel will be deployed with general headquarters and medical staff or carry out intelligence activities.

Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt had earlier said it would be unwise to send Belgian troops to a former colony.

He referred to the ill-fated mission to Rwanda in the 1990s when a handful of Belgian troops were killed as ethnic cleansing and violence engulfed the Central African nation.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news

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