'Congo needs support from EU'

BRUSSELS - Belgium will appeal to its European Union counterparts to send reinforcements for UN peacekeepers in eastern Congo.

BRUSSELS - Belgium will appeal to its European Union counterparts to send reinforcements for UN peacekeepers in eastern Congo.

Belgian prime minister Yves Leterme promised to act after receiving an urgent request from UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

The UN is asking that the EU reconsider its earlier decision rejecting a mission - and send help for people caught in clashes between Congo's government and rebel forces.

"Europe can't keep ignoring this," Leterme said.

He said the EU's "credibility was on the line" in its ties with African countries, adding that Belgium should not stand by while people die and millions of euros in development aid continues "to be blown up" in the fighting.

France, which holds the EU presidency, together with Britain and Germany, have ruled out an EU force, but Leterme said a coalition of five or six other EU countries, possibly led by Spain, could take on an EU mission.

Years of sporadic fighting in eastern Congo has intensified since August.

Some 250000 people have fled to escape clashes between the army and fighters loyal to rebel leader Laurent Nkunda.

Nkunda has said he wants to protect ethnic Tutsis from Hutus who fled to Congo from Rwanda after that country's 1994 genocide.

But his critics contend he is anxious to amass power and seize control of Congo's mineral wealth. - Sapa-AP

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