German government approves Congo troop deployment

Germany 's Cabinet on Wednesday approved the deployment of nearly 800 troops as part of a European mission to Congo that will support U.N. peacekeepers during elections. Germany will contribute 500 soldiers to the 1,500-strong EU force, as well as 280 support troops for medical and logistical tasks, Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said.

The deployment still needs approval from parliament. Jung said it is expected to vote June 1. The Congo mission is slated to begin July 30, the day the central African country's elections start, and last four months. The elections for president and the national assembly will be Congo 's first in 40 years. The vast, violence-plagued nation has delayed the vote repeatedly for logistical reasons.

In addition to Germany and France , which is expected to send 500 troops, another 16 of the 25 European Union members have agreed to contribute in some way, Jung said. The mission should win approval easily in parliament, where Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has an overwhelming majority. However, it has generated little enthusiasm among lawmakers.

Some question whether a deployment limited largely to the capital, Kinshasa , makes sense and maintain that the troops inevitably will end up staying longer than planned. "We think this is one of the worst prepared missions politically that we have ever seen," Wolfgang Gerhardt, a senior lawmaker with the opposition Free Democrats, told ARD television.

"The time frame that will be needed absolutely cannot be predicted," he added. "The number of soldiers being deployed is probably far too small. After four months, no one will have a guarantee that all the losers will accept the election result", reports the AP.


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