Europe cool on Africa taskforce

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The Independent Online
Paris - Senior US officials have visited European capitals including Paris and London to rally support for plans to set up an all-Africa crisis force, but they met a lukewarm response, officials said yesterday.

French and EU officials said a 12-person delegation, including a representative of Washington's National Security Council, met an adviser to President Jacques Chirac last month but EU powers judged the plan to be too vague.

The US embassy said Mr Chirac's African affairs adviser, Michel Dupuch, had received an inter-agency American delegation on 17 September, which also toured London and Brussels among other European capitals. "Both sides (the US and France) agreed it would be useful to refine our thinking further and to stay in touch," an embassy spokeswoman said.

US Assistant Secretary of State, George Moose, briefing reporters ahead of Secretary of State Warren Christopher's first trip to sub-Saharan Africa next week, said on Thursday he hoped the force could be put in place fairly quickly. In the event of a crisis on the continent, its role would be to establish safe havens for civilians rather than engage in fighting or separate warring factions.

A French Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jacques Rummelhardt, reacting cautiously, said it "should be compared to the various ideas being debated. The recent American ideas will contribute to these discussions and should be studied very closely". He was referring to plans being studied by the UN, the Organisation of African Unity, the French and British governments, and the Western European Union (WEU).

"The Americans did not come here to Europe, and then go on to Africa, with fully worked out proposals. As the proposals stand now they are a little vague," said one Western European official.

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