France calls for urgent EU talks on DR Congo force
AFP - Tuesday, December 2
PARIS (AFP) - - The French EU presidency called on Monday for European Union members to hold urgent talks on sending an emergency security force to Democratic Republic of Congo following a UN request.
"I have asked for a new round of consultations to be held urgently in Brussels, notably to examine how to respond to the United Nations' request," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a statement.
International calls have mounted for Europe to send an "interim" security force to halt strife in the east of DR Congo, as thousands more fled fighting between rebels and government forces at the weekend.
Former colonial ruler Belgium said Sunday that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon backed sending a European force to bridge the gap until it can assemble and deploy a reinforcement of 3,000 troops for the UN peacekeeping force MONUC.
European ambassadors in charge of security affairs will discuss the bloc's response to the DR Congo crisis at a meeting in Brussels Tuesday and Wednesday, an official from the French EU presidency said.
The conflict will also be discussed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on December 8.
"The European Union is continuing to examine all possible options," said Kouchner, whose country holds the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union until December 31.
France and Belgium last month proposed sending troops to Nord-Kivu province to support MONUC, already the biggest UN peacekeeping mission in the world with 17,000 troops.
But other European states, including Germany, are not in favour of military support, preferring to back humanitarian organisations and political mediation.
Kouchner said he had "listened with utmost attention to the call by the United Nations secretary general for an interim European Union force in Democratic Republic of Congo."
"Since the start of the crisis, I have sought for the European Union to take its full place in resolving the crisis, whether on the political, humanitarian or security fronts, including via an interim European Union mission," he said.
France's Human Rights Minister Rama Yada called during a visit to Congo Sunday for international action to counter what she called "catastrophic" conditions facing the refugee population.
An estimated 250,000 people have been displaced since new fighting between renegade Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda and government forces erupted in August, with the crisis worsening over the past six weeks.
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Indian peacekeepers guard the United Mission for the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) offices in Goma. The French EU presidency has called for European Union members to hold urgent talks on sending an emergency security force to Democratic Republic of Congo following a UN request.
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