Solana to travel Congo to discuss EU peacekeeping mission

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will travel to Congo on Sunday to discuss plans for the EU to reinforce the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the African nation during elections due to start in June, officials said. Solana's trip to the Congolese capital Kinshasa is seen an important step in helping persuade EU nations to contribute the 1,200 troops needed for the mission. He is scheduled to meet President Joseph Kabila and other Congolese political leaders, Solana's office said Friday.

Germany , under pressure to lead the mission, and other European governments have been reluctant to provide troops without guarantees about the nature and duration of the potentially dangerous mission. Solana is expected to report back to EU foreign ministers who meet Monday in Brussels .

Germany and France are expected to provide most of the troops many of whom will be held in reserve in elsewhere in Africa or in Europe . Belgium , Sweden , Austria , Poland , Spain , Portugal , Ireland and Finland are also considering making smaller contributions, EU officials say.

Solana said he expects Sweden to be one of the key contributors to the mission. "I am sure that Sweden will provide a real contribution, as it always does," he said in a speech at the Swedish National Defence College in Stockholm . "This is the kind of example that I know other member states will follow." Solana met with Sweden 's Defense Minister Leni Bjorklund on Friday to discuss the mission, and was to have talks with Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds later in the day, reports the AP.

N.U.

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