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EU military mission gets the go ahead

1:00 AM

NAIROBI, 24 Mar 2006 (IRIN) - The Council of the European Union announced on Thursday that it had approved "the concept" of EU troops supporting MONUC, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during the presidential and legislative elections process this year.

"Although a stable and secure environment for the elections is first and foremost the responsibility of the DRC Transitional National Government, supported by MONUC, the EU is ready to contribute to it," the council said in a statement issued from Brussels, Belgium.

It said the concept included deployment of an advanced team to Kinshasa of 400-450 military personnel. The EU would also make a battalion-size force (around 800 troops) available as an "on-call" unit. The battalion would be "over the horizon outside the country, but quickly deployable," the EU said. Planning for police support will also be pursued, it added.

The council said the EU's German Armed Forces Operations Command in Potsdam, Germany, would be available for planning and command of the military operation.

"The mission will be genuinely European and multinational, with many member states having expressed their willingness to participate, several providing troops," the council said.

It said the success of elections in the DRC was also important to other countries, not just the Congo. "It will have a major impact for peace and development in the region of the Great Lakes and Africa as a whole," it said.

The EU is a leading donor in the DRC, proving "economic aid, political support as well as police and security sector reform missions".

In 2003, the EU conducted a military operation in northeastern DRC's Ituri District that was codenamed Artemis, at the request of the UN.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was in the eastern Congolese city of Kisangani on Thursday, where he met and thanked Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo for working with the UN in the country's transition from a six-year civil war towards peace and democracy.

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