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US backs French call for UN force in DRC

30th May 2003

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The US said yesterday it fully supports France in its efforts to create a multinational force under the United Nations to restore security in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but will not send US troops.

State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher said Washington would vote in favor of a French-sponsored resolution creating the force for the Ituri region of the DRC when it comes before the UN Security Council today.

"We support the resolution," he told reporters, adding that the speedy deployment of the force was essential to peace efforts in Ituri, where violence has worsened in recent weeks, and the entire DRC.

"We think the rapid deployment of such a force is critical to stabilising the region, and in so doing, allowing the ongoing political process to move forward," Boucher said.

He said the US would consider any requests from the UN force for logistical or financial support, but that Washington did not envision sending US troops to take part in it.

France said on Wednesday that it would lead the multi-national force in Ituri where guerrillas and government troops are faced off in the powder keg town of Bunia where more than 50 000 people have been killed and some half a million displaced since 1999.

The DRC war broke out in August 1998, and at its height drew in more than half a dozen African countries. The conflict has claimed some 2,5-million lives directly or indirectly through disease or starvation.

The United Nations already has a military mission in DRC, known by its acronym Monuc, but it has only about 700 troops in Bunia and diplomats say the mission's mandate and manpower is not up to containing the violence. - Sapa-AFP.
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