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Pentagon: US Has No Plans to Get Involved in DRC Conflict - 2003-05-15

The U.S. Defense Department says it has no plans to get involved in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where ethnic bloodshed has spurred fears of a new genocide and triggered calls for a special international peacekeeping force.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for a "coalition of the willing" to provide troops for a special military mission aimed at halting the escalating ethnic violence in Ituri Province in northeastern Congo.

France has offered troops. But a Pentagon spokesman says U.S. defense officials have not been asked by the Bush administration to determine whether any American military resources could be made available.

The spokesman goes on to say "there are no plans for the Department of Defense to get involved in this area."

The statement comes despite comments from a U.S. diplomat at the United Nations who said Security Council members "can't afford to sit on our hands at this time."

The official, Richard Williamson, said earlier this week the United States has given additional money to the Ituri pacification process.

He also said the United States believed a realignment of the 4,300 U.N. peacekeeping forces already in the Congo could help. But Mr. Williamson was quoted as saying the Bush administration was "willing to look at a variety of options."

Ironically, the Pentagon's statement that it has no plans to get involved in the Congo comes just two weeks after a top U.S. general hinted at greater American military involvement on the African continent in the future.

General James Jones, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Europe, conceded in a meeting with defense writers there has until now been only what he terms "a very marginal effort" to confront potential security threats in Africa, including areas he described as "hot beds of instability."

General Jones suggested one way the United States might beef up its presence is by re-directing aircraft carrier strike groups so that they spend more time in waters off Africa than in more conventional areas like the Mediterranean.