New military engagement rules needed for Congo: Kouchner

November 4th, 2008 - 12:10 am ICT by IANS  

Marseille (France), Nov 3 (DPA) New rules of military engagement are necessary for the 17,000 UN peacekeeping troops stationed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said here Monday. “The rules of engagement now are very restrictive,” Kouchner said ahead of an informal meeting of European Union (EU) foreign ministers in this southern of France. “We can not have soldiers there who are not allowed to shoot. I’m not saying we should make war. But we should be able to carry out defensive missions.”

France is hosting the meeting because it currently holds the rotating presidency of the 27-nation grouping.

Kouchner also raised the possibility that more troops may need to be deployed to the strife-torn country to protect the estimated 1.5 million people displaced by fierce fighting in the east of the country.

“Do we need more soldiers there? Possibly. Perhaps we need a different kind of soldier,” he suggested.

The French foreign minister said conditions for the refugees in camps in the eastern North Kivu province were “deplorable”.

“Aid can not get through,” said Kouchner, who recently visited the area with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

“The problem is not military. It is political,” he said. “There must be a political solution involving the African Union and the countries in the region.”

The Congolese and Rwandan presidents have agreed to attend a regional summit aimed at resolving the conflict, most likely to be held in Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Western diplomats feel that the only way to resolve the conflict is to bring Rwanda and the DR Congo together at the table.

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