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Mozambique reconsiders troops for Somalia, Sudan
MAPUTO, Jan 24, 2007 - Mozambique is reconsidering whether it will contribute troops to peacekeeping forces deployed in Somalia and Sudan, the country’s defence minister told Reuters on Wednesday.
"We have ordered a thorough study to be conducted before we intervene, then we will decide," Maj. General Tobias Dai said in an interview. "We need to know the region, the nature of the conflict and its evolution and also understand different efforts that we would propose."
Earlier this month a Mozambique Defense Ministry spokesman said a military contingent was training intensely in preparation for deployment to the Horn of Africa after requests for peacekeepers were received from the United Nations among others.
Mozambique , a former Portuguese colony that endured a lengthy civil war after independence in 1975, contributed troops for international peacekeeping operations in Burundi in 2003, raising hopes that it would do so again for Somalia and Sudan.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki recently sent ministers to seven African countries seeking support for a continental force for Somalia to help prevent anarchy after Somali government troops backed by Ethiopian forces ousted Islamists in December.
Ethiopian troops have begun leaving Somalia.
The African Union and East African body IGAD say they are willing in principle to send more than 8,000 peacekeepers into Somalia, provided funding is made available and member nations supply soldiers and equipment.
Malawi and Uganda have agreed to contribute to a peacekeeping force there.
Mozambique ’s government has shown more uncertainty about the mission in the past week. Last week Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Henrique Banze suggested that logistical and financial issues could have an impact on any decision to deploy troops.
"The case of Somalia is a very difficult one," Banze said. "It’s something that should be thoroughly looked at involving different segments of the society." Banze said.
In Sudan’s Darfur conflict, the government in Khartoum has agreed to a "hybrid" AU-U.N. operation in Darfur but it is not clear if that involves more than technical support.
Khartoum has rejected the 20,000 peacekeepers and police the U.N. Security Council wanted to send to support some 7,000 AU troops already in the region.