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US Considering Ugandan Request for Military Support

The United States says it is considering a request by the Ugandan government for military support and money to help its fight against the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Kampala, Mark Schlachter, says the United States has been in talks with the government of President Yoweri Museveni over ways it can assist the Ugandan military.

The spokesman says the United States considers its relationship with Uganda vital in promoting security in the volatile East Africa region, which has been hit by several terrorist attacks.

But the spokesman says any help for Uganda will have to be within the framework a recently-signed bilateral security assistance agreement.

"The International Military Education and Training Program promotes the professionalization of the UPDF [Ugandan People's Defense Force] through educational exchanges, human rights training, training visits by U.S. personnel, etc," he explained. "The U.S. has similar security relationships with a great many countries. So, the request for additional assistance will be addressed within the context of those existing programs."

Ugandan troops have been fighting the Lord's Resistance Army rebels since 1987. But despite repeated offensives, the Ugandan military has been unable to put down the insurgency.

On Thursday, Ugandan officials said that while they have not asked for U.S. ground troops, they have asked the United States to provide logistical support and intelligence information to Ugandan forces in the northern and eastern part of the country, where most of the fighting is concentrated.

Kampala says it has also requested access to part of a multi-million dollar U.S. anti-terror fund, earmarked for the African continent.

During President Bush's tour of several African nations in July, he pledged $150 million to help countries in Africa fight terror. The Ugandan army says it needs some of that money now to buy more modern firearms to counter the rebel's superior weaponry.

Ugandan officials argue the United States should help in their fight against the Lord's Resistance Army because the rebel group is on the U.S. list of terrorist groups.

The rebels have yet to declare a clear motive for why they are fighting. But the 16-year-long civil war has been blamed for the brutal deaths and kidnappings of hundreds of thousands of people, mostly children.