EU almost ready for Congo military mission

15th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

15 May 2006, BRUSSELS - Preparations for the European Union's military operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo are almost complete, with all practical details expected to be ready by the end of the week, German Defence Minister Franz-Josef Jung said Monday.

15 May 2006

BRUSSELS - Preparations for the European Union's military operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo are almost complete, with all practical details expected to be ready by the end of the week, German Defence Minister Franz-Josef Jung said Monday.

Jung, attending a meeting of EU defence ministers in Brussels, said a total of 16 EU member states had agreed to take part in the operation designed to guarantee security in Congo ahead of elections to be held on July 30.

"We have taken a decisive step forward today...we hope for final results at the of this week," Jung told reporters.

The German defence chief said the EU operation, aimed at providing support to United Nations troops already in Congo, would last for four months, with German forces operating in the capital, Kinshasa.

German General Karlheinz Vierech is in charge of the EU mission which will have its operational headquarters in the German armed forces command centre in Potsdam, near Berlin. France will provide the force's headquarters in Kinshasa.

A statement issued by EU foreign ministers said the Congolese authorities must ensure that the election date is observed and that the polls are conducted properly.

The EU decision to deploy forces in Congo showed that the bloc believed that a successful transition to democracy in Congo will have "a major impact on peace and development in the Great Lakes region and in the whole of Africa," ministers said.

The EU operation will include 1,500 soldiers, with about 400 to 450 troops stationed in Kinshasa and others on standby either in a neighbouring country or in Europe.

Costs for the joint military operation are expected to amount to 16.7 million euros (20.7 million dollars).

Countries taking part include mission leader Germany as well as Belgium, France, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Ireland, Finland, and Austria.

EU leaders gave their political backing to the operation in March, saying the bloc's main aim was to provide "timely and focused support" to United Nations troops currently in Congo.

EU soldiers in Kinshasa will work to ensure security of the airport and focus on the evacuation, if needed, of European election monitors in the country.

The United Nations has 17,000 peacekeepers in DR Congo but has warned that more soldiers are needed to prevent violence and ensure stability ahead of the polls.

The EU also conducted a military operation in Congo's war-torn Bunia province in 2003 on the basis of a UN request.


DPA

Subject: German news

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