EU Approves Long-Delayed Mission to Chad | Europe | News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 28.01.2008

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EU Approves Long-Delayed Mission to Chad

The European Union's foreign ministers gave the order to launch the EU's security mission to Chad and the Central African Republic, putting an end to months of wrangling. France is slated to contribute the most troops.

Women and children at the Koubigou refugee camp in eastern Chad in March 2007

The EU force will be tasked with protecting civilians in the war-torn areas that border Darfur

At their regular monthly meeting, the union's 27 foreign ministers on Monday, Jan. 28, authorized the force's commander, Lt. Gen. Patrick Nash, to order the deployment of his troops.

"In conducting this operation the EU is stepping up its long-standing action in support of efforts to tackle the crisis in Darfur and to address its regional ramifications," the foreign ministers said in a statement.

The force, which is to provide security for locals and UN aid teams in eastern Chad and the north-eastern Central African Republic along the border with the war-torn Sudanese province of Darfur, was proposed by France and approved in concept by EU leaders on Oct. 15.

However, arguments then broke out over the resources which each member state should commit to the operation, with the EU's 27 nations initially unable to scrape together the helicopters and transport planes needed to support the 3,700-man mission.

Children standing in line at a refugee camp

Hundreds of thousand have been uprooted by violence in the region

That obstacle was finally overcome in early January, when Russia and Ukraine -- neither of which is an EU member -- offered to provide the missing hardware.

The backbone of the "bridging operation," which is mandated to run for a year, will be made up of an estimated 2,000 French troops. However, the appointment of Nash -- an Irishman -- guarantees the multinational nature of the force, diplomats said.

Ireland and Poland are set to send some 400 troops each. The deployment is expected to begin in March, with the mission coming up to full strength by May 1.

The mission is expected to cost 119 million euros ($175 million).

Nash is set to control the operation from the Mont Valerien military base in France. Actions on the ground will be commanded by French Brigadier-General Jean-Philippe Ganascia.

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