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Europe

Germany Joins Anglo-Franco Plan for EU Response Force

The German government is set to contribute to small EU military units proposed by France and Britain to stabilize crisis zones. Should EU members approve, they could be operating by 2007.

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Gerhard Schröder, middle, wants to play along.

French and British officials announced the plan on Tuesday, saying they each intend to set up one unit, which would be made up of 1,500 soldiers. They emphasized that the proposal would not conflict with NATO's planned response force of 21,000 troops or an earlier EU plan to create a military unit comprised of 60,000 soldiers.

"The objective is to have a new tool for Europeans which will not compete with others," a French foreign ministry spokesman told Reuters news agency. "It allows the Europeans to be present (in a crisis)." Reuters also quoted a senior diplomat, who said Germany would fund an additional unit, with hopes that Italy, Spain and Poland would join in as well. Groups of smaller member states could form multinational units.

In and out within 45 days

The soldiers would serve as a stabilizing force in crisis regions until U.N. peacekeepers can be sent there. Groups should be ready for deployment within 15 days and serve a maximum of 30 days. The teams would be similar to a French-led military unit that was sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo last year. Operation "Artemis" focused on keeping things under control and securing infrastructure until UN troops arrived. Germany participated in this operation, albeit only with logistical support.

Should the EU approve the proposal, seven or eight units could be up and running by 2007. France, Britain and Germany hope to get the green light from other member states by June. The three countries' leaders, French President Jacques Chirac, Britain's Premier Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, are expected to discuss the issue at a meeting in Berlin on Feb. 18.

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