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Security Council endorses EU force

NAIROBI, 26 Apr 2006 (IRIN) - The UN Security Council has passed a resolution endorsing the deployment of a European Union (EU) reserve force to serve in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for a period ending four months after the date of the first round of upcoming general elections slated for later this year.

The Council passed the resolution on Tuesday, authorising the reserve force - to be known as Eufor R.D. Congo - to support United Nations troops seeking to stabilise the vast country and provide protection to civilians "under imminent threat of physical violence". It also authorised the EU force to deploy advance elements in preparation for its full operational capability.

The reserve force would also contribute to airport protection in the capital, Kinshasa, ensuring the security and free movement of its personnel and that of its installations; and the execution of limited operations to extract individuals in danger.

Under an agreement between the EU and the UN, the force would comprise advance troops concentrated in Kinshasa and others on standby outside the DRC. The French ambassador to the Security Council, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, said part of the EU force would be based in Kinshasa while others would be in Gabon and Europe.

The UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, has nearly 17,000 troops and international police officers deployed.

The decision to engage the EU reserve force in its assigned tasks will be taken by the European Union, upon a request by the UN Secretary-General or, in emergency cases, in consultation with MONUC, with MONUC providing the necessary logistical support to EU force on a cost-reimbursement basis.

At the same time, the Security Council called upon all Congolese parties to demonstrate their commitment to democracy by ensuring that the forthcoming general elections are free, fair, peaceful and transparent and would be held in accordance with the timetable of the country's Independent Electoral Commission.

The resolution follows an expression of concern by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan about the possibility of violence occurring before, during or after the elections, which neither MONUC troops, nor those of the Congolese army would have the capacity to contain.

In December 2005, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, requested the EU to provide a reserve force that could be deployed to the DRC to support MONUC during the country's electoral process. At least 10 EU countries are expected to take part in the force, among them Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Germany, EU officials said. The overall mission will be led from a German headquarters in Potsdam, with France commanding the ground forces.

The authorisation for the deployment of the EU troops will not exceed MONUC's term in the DRC mandate and would be subject, beyond 30 September 2006, to an extension of its own mandate.

The Congolese elections are supported by the largest and most expensive electoral assistance operation the UN has ever undertaken, in the hope that the process will cement the country's transition from years of bloody conflict, including a six-year civil war, during which at least four million people died and millions others displaced.

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