EU's Congo mission set for political go-ahead
21 March 2006, BRUSSELS - European Union governments will give the political thumbs up to the deployment of a German-led peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo later this week, EU diplomats said Tuesday.
21 March 2006
BRUSSELS - European Union governments will give the political thumbs up to the deployment of a German-led peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo later this week, EU diplomats said Tuesday.
The go-ahead is expected on Friday on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels.
Diplomats said Germany had told a meeting of the EU's political and security committee on Tuesday that it was ready to take charge of the peacekeeping mission, using Potsdam as the operational headquarters.
Formal EU agreement on deploying the mission in Congo depends, however, on approval by the German parliament where opposition to the operation remains rife.
EU diplomats said, however, that Berlin would soon appoint a military commander for the mission and start the process of "force generation" for the deployment of an estimated 1,500 soldiers.
However, only about 300 troops will be based in Kinshasa, with the rest deployed either in a neighbouring country or on stand by in Europe.
EU countries which have indicated they will also participate in the operation include Belgium, France, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Ireland, Finland, and Austria.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters in Brussels earlier this week that Berlin was ready to lead the mission provided other countries turned their pledges into reality.
"If the burden is shared on the broadest European shoulders then we will take up our responsibility," said Steinmeier.
The EU operation follows a request from the United Nations for a stepped-up international security presence in Congo before, during and after national elections in June.
Diplomats said the EU force would help UN troops in ensuring security at Kinshasa airport and focus on the personal evacuation if needed of European election monitors in Congo.
The United Nations has 17,000 peacekeepers in Congo but has warned that more soldiers are needed to prevent violence and ensure stability ahead of the June polls.
Subject: German news