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UN Appeals for More Military Support from Europe

The United Nations is asking Europe to send more troops and military support to the world's hot spots, particularly in Africa. The appeal came from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a speech in Dublin Thursday.

Mr. Annan spoke at a meeting of the National Forum on Europe, where he gave his support to European Union plans for a military rapid-reaction force that could deploy quickly in zones of crisis.

"I want to leave you in no doubt of how important strengthened EU capacities are to the U.N.," said Kofi Annan. "The EU is in a position to provide specialized skills that our greatest troop contributors may not be able to give us and to deploy more rapidly than we can."

Mr. Annan cited as an example the French-led intervention last year in Bunia, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He said that operation had saved many lives.

The U.N. leader said Europe also must continue to provide troops for traditional U.N. peacekeeping missions, which he said are expanding rapidly.

"Today the U.N. faces a surge in demand for peacekeeping," he said. "In the last nine months, with five new operations either deployed or on the drawing board, the demand on our peacekeeping has jumped by almost 50 percent. Yet today, less than one in 10 U.N. peacekeepers is from an EU country. And in Africa, where most of our operations are deployed, the proportion drops to less than one in 20."

Mr. Annan then turned his attention to the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's western Darfur region, where government-backed Arab militias are fighting black rebel groups. He says Europe can help with money and support for an African Union peace initiative.

"Let me be frank. Much more help is needed," continued Kofi Annan. "Darfur is an enormous region, and a huge number of people are suffering. The humanitarian effort needs more money, and the African Union needs concrete support, including logistics, equipment and financing, as well as political pressure on the parties, on both parties, the government as well as the rebels. Every country and organization that can, must do so, and do so now."

Britain, France and Germany are the key promoters of the EU rapid-reaction force. There are proposals to establish at least two, and possibly three, 1,500-member units next year.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair says EU members have agreed in principle to the concept of more involvement in world trouble spots. The spokesman says Britain will push to finalize the plan when it assumes the EU presidency in the second half of next year.