African Union peacekeeper in Darfur

Swedish Force May be Sent to Chad

Swedish troops could see action in Chad, providing protection for humanitarian operations in the troubled Darfur region of neighboring Sudan.

With partners in the European Union, Sweden is pushing for a European force, likely to include a Swedish contigent, but reservations from other EU members could scupper its plans.

EU foreign ministers have pledged to ”continue planning”, for a 3000-strong European force, to provide protection for civilians in eastern Chad and northeastern Central African Republic, fleeing violence in the bording Darfur region of Sudan.

United Nations relief agencies have appealed for a rapid deployment of EU troops, along with a UN police force to provide a more peaceful environment for thousands of internally displaced people, as well as for humanitarian workers to operate.

Along with Britain and France, Sweden is keen to push ahead with planning for the mission, which could see troops on the ground in October. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt says ”the refugee camps need to be protected, and this could have a positive impact on the situation on the other side of the border in Sudan.”

Bildt adds that while no pledges on troop numbers have been made, Swedish forces do have appropriate skills for such a mission.

Several EU nations, led by Germany and including the Netherlands, Estonia and Greece, have expressed reservations about sending troops to the region. Ministers say that any mission, ”should be based on a resolution by the UN Security Council, with a clearly defined exit strategy.”

Non-NATO member Sweden currently has some 1,000 troops on various missions abroad, including over 300 serving under NATO command, in northern Afghanistan.

Diplomats say that most of the troops for the mission would be provided by France, which already has soldiers in Chad and its other former colony, the Central African Republic.

The UN has estimated that there are some 220,000 refugees, and 170,000 internally displaced persons in Chad, with daunting logistical problems for humanitarian workers.

According to aid groups, the number of displaced people in the Central African Republic exceeds 280,000. Many are fleeing the persistent insecurity in the north of the country where government troops are battling several rebel groups.

According to UN estimates in Darfur at least 200,000 people have died from the combined effect of war and famine since civil strife started in February 2003.

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