EU supports Darfur's peace force and offers airlift for Darfur operation
"All of the ministers took the view that the EU must respond positively", said Luxembourg defence minister Luc Frieden, speaking of the African Union's call for help earlier this month.
"The European Union has had a long presence in Africa and good ties with the AU, it's on that basis that we are building this mission in Darfur", said Mr Frieden.
However, he stressed that the EU was aware that it should not get into "competition" with NATO, which is already drawing up plans for military assistance to the African Union force and which has an overlapping membership with the EU.
But there appeared to be confusion about what had been finally agreed. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said that the 25-nation bloc could provide airlift capabilities.
He said that as soon as the African troops are ready, the EU would provide assistance to airlift soldiers.
"As soon as the troops are ready, we'll be ready to transport them to theatre", said Mr Solana.
France has offered to provide air transport for up to 1,200 soldiers.
But the British defence secretary, John Reid, who repeatedly stressed the importance of working with NATO, implied that a final decision had not yet been taken.
The EU was also at pains to stress that this is an operation that is to be run by the African Union.
"The soldiers which are there are African Union soldiers", said Mr Solana while Mr Frieden said "the most important aspect of the operation will not be to provide military personnel".
The ministers agreed that they would complete a list of what they would provide to the African Union within the next 48 hours, but some countries appeared to be reluctant with the British defence secretary pointing out how many other committments his country already had - particularly in Iraq.
The defence ministers discussion on Monday follows an appeal by the AU's head, Alpha Oumar Konare, to both the EU and NATO earlier this month for help to end the civil war in Sudan which has claimed around 300,000 lives through violence, hunger and disease.
The Darfur conflict broke out in February 2003 after rebels took up arms against the government. Khartoum was then accused of retaliating by arming local Arab militia, who murdered and raped ordinary civilians.
Both Mr Solana and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the head of NATO, will on Thursday attend a conference in Addis Ababa to co-ordinate offers of help in the Darfur region.
Photo: French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie greets British counterpart John Reid in Brussels. The European Union pledged to coordinate with NATO in providing support personnel, training and equipment - including anything from vehicles, weapons and tents, playing down any strains over who should do what. (AFP/Gerard Cerles)
Supporting the Sudan mission has fueled some tension between the EU and NATO; more precisely, between the US and France, whose foreign minister Michel Barnier said NATO should not be "the world's policeman." - via DefenseNews May 23, 2005.
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EU offers airlift for Darfur operation
BBC confirms the EU has pledged planes and lorries to transport thousands of African troops to Darfur.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana noted that four countries - Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal and Nigeria - had offered troops for the Darfur mission, and said the European bloc could for example provide air transport for them.
"As soon as the troops ... are ready, we will be ready to transport them to the theatre" of operations, he said.
Full Report by Honor Mahony EUobserver Brussels May 23, 2005.
Photo: EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana (Photo: The Council of the European Union) AU lists military hardware it needs from donors for Darfur peacekeeping.
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Full text: Jose Manuel Barroso's speech
Full text of speech given by the president of the European commission to the European partnership for aid and development at the London School of Economics, Friday May 20, 2005. - via Guardian UK May 23, 2005.
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AU hosts meeting on Darfur May 26 along with UN chief, NATO and EU leaders
The African Union (AU) will host a donors' meeting on the Darfur crisis May 26 in Addis Ababa, along with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as well as NATO and EU leaders.
From Addis, Mr Annan is scheduled to travel to Khartoum to meet Sudanese Government officials, AU officials and UN system representatives. In Rumbek, he is scheduled to meet John Garang, Chairman of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), which fought a war against the Sudanese Government for many years before reaching a peace agreement and getting some autonomy this year.
Last month, the pan-African body agreed to increase the size of its Darfur mission from 3,320 to 7,731 by the end of September and appealed to the AU's 53 members to support the operation with troops and cash. - via DefenseNews May 23, 2005.
Tags: Darfur Sudan Africa African+Union European+Union NATO