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German parliament approves contingent for Congo's EU force

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AMSTERDAM, 2 Jun 2006 (IRIN) - The German parliament, the Bundestag, voted 135-5 on Thursday to send a maximum of 780 soldiers to a United Nations-mandated European Union force, due to be deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), to support the UN mission there during general elections set for 30 July.

"The main mission of German soldiers is the evacuation of civilians," a spokesman of the German Defence Ministry, who requested anonymity, said on Friday from the German capital, Berlin.

He said the contingent would have planes designed for medical evacuations. The contingent would comprise airborne troops, medical, and reconnaissance and communications personnel.

He added that paratroopers would be based in Gabon, which neighbours the DRC, ready to intervene, while the rest of the force would be based in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa. He said European leaders were yet to decide on the troop departure date for the mission area.

Commanded by German Gen Karlheinz Viereck, the force known as EUFOR DR CONGO, would - when fully mustered - comprise troops mainly from Germany and France. The four-month EU mission is set to cost 16.7 million euros (US $20.9 million) and have at least 1,000 troops. Its threefold mission is to support directly the 17,000-strong UN peacekeepers in the country; to protect the Kinshasa airport for eventual evacuations; and sending of reinforcements as well as carry to out evacuations where necessary.

The Swedish parliament is due to announce on 14 June whether or not it would send a contingent to the EU force, following a joint proposal made in mid-May by EU ministers of defence and foreign affairs.


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