Belgium in new push for EU force in DR Congo

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Belgium steps diplomatic efforts to win support among EU partners.

BRUSSELS - Belgium is stepping up diplomatic efforts to win support among EU partners for sending a European force to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the Belgian foreign ministry said Saturday.

Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht has asked that his EU counterparts discuss the issue at a meeting on Monday in Brussels after UN chief Ban Ki-moon formally requested a European force on Friday.

"Minister De Gucht will keep up his diplomatic efforts during the coming days," the ministry said in a statement.

"It will not be easy to get a force together but Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's formal request shows that Minister De Gucht is not alone in calling for an additional European effort," it added.

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

After talks with British, French and Dutch colleagues on Tuesday, De Gucht ruled out a European force in Congo's conflict-torn east in the near future. He held further talks with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish colleagues on Thursday.

"Belgium stands ready to actively contribute to an EU force," the ministry said.


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