Top EU official calls for stronger peacekeeping mandate

The EU high representative for the common foreign and security policy, Javier Solana, called on Tuesday for a stronger mandate for the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), similar to that of the multinational peace enforcement mission deployed to the northeastern town of Bunia until 1 September.

"For us, the mandate must be very close to that of the force currently deployed in Ituri, under Chapter Seven, which authorises strong engagement," Solana said at a news conference in the capital, Kinshasa.

"This is what the EU would like to see for MONUC [the UN Mission in the DRC], and I hope that other members of the UN Security Council share this opinion," he said.

Chapter Seven of the UN Charter authorises the UN to use military force in response to "any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression". However, member states contributing soldiers to UN peace missions are often reluctant to commit their troops to such a level of activity.

[For more information on Chapter Seven, go to www.un.org] MONUC is currently operating under Chapter Six, which widely limits the use of force.

Solana said the EU would support a stronger MONUC during the next meeting of the UN Security Council on the DRC. He said the EU intended to maintain its "strong, positive and constructive" engagement in the country, as had been demonstrated by the EU's temporary deployment in Bunia of a French-led peace enforcement mission, codenamed "Artemis".

During his visit to Kinshasa, Solana met with President Joseph Kabila and other members of the national transitional government due to be inaugurated this week. He said discussions focused on the current status of the transitional process following a power-sharing accord that had been reached in December 2002.

"We are aware of the window of opportunity that was opened with the signing of a global accord, and which should remained open," Solana said. "The most important part of this process will be the organisation of elections, and we are ready to lend our expertise in this domain, with the cooperation of MONUC and the Congolese government."

He reported that the EU and Kabila had signed an agreement on Monday whereby the EU would provide €80 million (US $90 million) for a rehabilitation programme for the DRC, known as "CE/PAR II".

Earlier in July, the EU agreed to provide €1.5 million ($1.6 million) to support the installation and operation of the transitional national government.

Solana also said the EU was ready to help with the formation of a united national police force.

Following his visit to Kinshasa, Solana was due to travel to Kigali to meet with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, and then to Kampala for talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

On Wednesday, Solana will go to Bunia, the main city of the embattled Ituri District, where he will visit the EU force. On 18 July, he is due to present a report on the operation to the UN Security Council.

"We are calling on everyone in the region to commit themselves to advancing the process in DRC and the best way of doing this is to allow the Congolese themselves bring the process to its fruition so that institutions to ensure security in the region can be created," he said.

Meanwhile, South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma had undertaken a similar initiative to promote regional peace and stability, particularly with regard to Burundi. On Tuesday, Zuma met with Museveni in Kampala, during which they condemned the current outbreak of hostilities in Bujumbura.

They also announced that a special meeting on Burundi would be held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Sunday with a view to returning the security situation in the country to normality.

In a statement, Zuma's office said the meeting would include Museveni, in his capacity as chairman of the regional initiative on Burundi; Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, in his capacity as deputy chairman; Zuma, in his capacity as facilitator to the peace process; as well as the belligerents in the conflict.

Zuma was due to travel to Kigali on Tuesday ahead of a meeting with Kagame on Wednesday.