EU ready to launch military mission to Congo

27th April 2006, Comments 0 comments

27 April 2006, BRUSSELS - European Union governments Thursday gave final backing to the bloc's planned peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, ahead of elections expected in June.

27 April 2006

BRUSSELS - European Union governments Thursday gave final backing to the bloc's planned peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, ahead of elections expected in June.

EU justice ministers meeting in Luxembourg adopted a legal framework allowing European soldiers to participate in a German-led operation which already has the backing of the United Nations Security Council.

"Today's decision confirms that this operation is well on track," said EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana, adding, "Support now will help embed peace in Congo and the region after years of conflict."

Some 400 to 450 European soldiers will be sent to the Congolese capital Kinshasa ahead of the elections. Others will be 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.

The operational headquarters for the mission will be the German armed forces command centre in Potsdam, near Berlin. France will provide the force's headquarters in Kinshasa.

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 DR Congo.

The German parliament must still approve the mission. However, Berlin has appointed German Lieutenant General Karlheinz Viereck to command the operation.

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 June 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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