Wed, Dec 03, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Paris calls for EU talks on troops for DR Congo

EMERGENCY REINFORCEMENTSCalls have mounted for Europe to send an ‘interim’ security force to back MONUC, already the biggest UN peacekeeping mission

AFP , PARIS

France on Monday called for urgent EU talks on sending emergency troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), as a French minister offered DR Congo President Joseph Kabila Paris’ full support.

The diplomatic developments were followed by an offer from the governor of the disputed Nord-Kivu province to hold direct talks with rebel Tutsi leader Laurent Nkunda, which received a muted response given his demand to meet with Kabila.

“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, referring to the UN Security Council’s approval for an extra 3,000 soldiers on the ground.

European ambassadors in charge of security affairs were to discuss the bloc’s response to the DR Congo crisis at a meeting in Brussels yesterday and today, an official from the French EU presidency said.

The conflict will also be discussed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday.

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 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.

Former colonial ruler Belgium said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wanted a European force to bridge the gap until reinforcements could be redeployed to the DR Congo.

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.

After meeting with Kabila in Kinshasa, French Human Rights Minister Rama Yade told reporters that France’s support for his government in efforts to quell the rebellion was unwavering.

“I underlined France’s backing for the Congolese authorities and its solidarity with the Congolese people,” Yade said.

She said Kabila’s government had been legitimately elected and said the “instability” was “created by rebel groups.”

In DR Congo, the UN mission said on Monday that rebels had followed through on their offer to withdraw from the town of Ishasa, by the eastern border with Uganda.

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