Belgian minister rules out European DR Congo mission for now

3rd December 2008, Comments 0 comments

Foreign Minister ruled out for now a European mission to the conflict-torn country.

3 December 2008

BRUSSELS - Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht  ruled out for now a European mission to the conflict-torn Democratic Republic of Congo saying no country was prepared to take charge of it.

"My feeling is that it is not possible to raise a European operation for the moment," he said after talks with some EU counterparts in Brussels.

"The chance we get a European mission in Congo is limited, to put it mildly. No country is ready to take the lead."

France, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, had on Monday called for "urgent" European talks on such a mission.

On Sunday, De Gucht said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon favoured sending an interim European force to the DR Congo while awaiting peacekeeping reinforcements for the east of country, where recent clashes have displaced some 250,000.

The UN Security Council has approved an additional 3,000 peacekeepers for the Congo mission, but the deployment "is going to take some time," Karel De Gucht told Belgium's VRT television.

France and former colonial ruler Belgium last month proposed sending troops to the Congo's eastern Nord-Kivu province to support the UN deployment, already the biggest United Nations peacekeeping mission in the world with 17,000 troops.

But other European states, including Germany, are against military input, preferring to pursue humanitarian options and political mediation.

International calls have mounted for Europe to send an "interim" security force to eastern DR Congo as thousands more fled fighting between rebels and government or Kinshasa-supporting forces at the weekend.

Since fighting resumed in August, rebels led by ex-general Laurent Nkunda have pushed back government troops in Nord-Kivu, also clashing with pro-government Mai-Mai militia and Hutu rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda.

UN peacekeepers have struggled to bring calm to the region.


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