DR Congo

EU says discussing sending small force to Congo

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PARIS, Oct 29 (Reuters) - France, the European Union president, said on Wednesday it was discussing sending an EU force of a few hundred men to the Democratic Republic of Congo but that several countries had opposed the idea.

Congolese rebel forces advanced on the eastern city of Goma on Wednesday, threatening to overwhelm government troops and a 17,000-strong U.N. force deployed to prevent a return to all-out war.

"We have discussed a group that is called the tactical group. This tactical group is a military guard which on a rotating basis can offer between 400 and 1,500 men whom we could deploy in the name of Europe within eight to 10 days," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told a news conference.

"Is it possible? For the moment a certain number of countries have refused," said Kouchner, whose country holds the rotating six-month EU presidency, adding: "I hope that the French presidency will make a proposal in the coming days."

The head of the EU military committee, General Henri Bentegeat of France, said after a meeting of the 27 EU military chiefs in Brussels that it would be possible to send an EU battlegroup to Congo, but this would need a political decision by member states.

A spokeswoman EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the focus was on diplomatic efforts to end the crisis rather than military preparations.

"There has been no request and sharing of needs from the U.N. to the European Union," Cristina Gallach said. "At this point there is no discussion about any military role of the European Union."

(Reporting by Francois Murphy in Paris and David Brunnstrom in Brussels; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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