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EU, U.N. Leaders Discuss Afghan Peacekeeeping Force

BY Admin  December 14, 2001 at 4:15 PM EDT

The discussions hit a contentious note today after Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel told reporters the 15-nation group had decided to send 3,000 to 4,000 troops from all member nations to participate in an international peacekeeping force led by Great Britain.

Michel, whose country holds the EU presidency, said the decision establishing the body’s first multinational force set “a significant precedent” for the bloc.

“I think this is of capital importance for Europe’s security and defense policy. I think you can say it’s a turning point in the history of the European Union,” Michel told reporters.

But ministers from Germany, Austria, France and Denmark all denied knowledge of an agreement on a joint EU force, Reuters reports.

“Even if we wanted to, we could not do it as we are not as far as we need to be with the [defense] structures,” German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told reporters. “This is an issue that will be handled in the [United Nations] Security Council.”

The U.N. Security Council has not yet authorized any troop deployment, although a resolution on the topic is expected soon.

British U.N. Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock has said a small force could get to the Afghan capital of Kabul by the time an interim government takes power Dec. 22.

Britain is expected to lead the force, but has not formally announced it will do so. The Security Council, in turn, cannot authorize the force until that statement comes.

The U.N. would not oversee the force, but the order to organize peacekeeping troops needs to come from the Security Council to give the force international legitimacy.

Officials from Britain, Germany, France, Italy Spain, Turkey Jordan and the U.S. met in London today to discuss the possible makeup of an international force.

Canada, the Netherlands and Bangladesh were also expected to be involved in the force, the Associated Press reports.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said a reconnaissance party would fly to Kabul over the weekend to assess the situation there.