Sweden Could Send Peacekeeping Mission to Congo

European Union defense ministers are seeking to finalize plans to send an EU military force to back U.N. peacekeepers in Congo, as the central African nation prepares for elections designed to end years of civil strife.

The defense ministers, meeting in Austria, will also review plans for EU nations to pool a small part of their defense budgets for cooperative research, a move critics have denounced as a threat to national control over military affairs.

According to EU officials, the possibility of increased European assistance to the faltering international peacekeeping mission in Sudan also will feature during the two-day meeting.

At a meeting of EU foreign ministers last week in Brussels, diplomats said that Sweden along with France, Germany and Belgium had stepped forward, although some were insisting on strict conditions on how their troops could be used.