New York - The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday unanimously endorsed a resolution authorising the deployment of 1 250 European Union troops to help the United Nations oversee upcoming polls in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The 15-member council endorsed the deployment of the force "for a period ending four months after the date of the first round of the presidential and parliamentary elections" in the vast Central African country.
The first round of the elections, the first in the former Belgian colony since independence in 1961, had been scheduled for June 18 but has been pushed back to a still undisclosed date.
The EU force will be tasked with supporting the 17 000-strong UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC known as MONUC during the period encompassing the elections.
Of the 1 250-strong force, EU leaders plan to send 400 to 450 troops to the DRC and to keep a further 800 rapidly-deployable troops on standby outside the country, which is struggling to recover from a war that embroiled most of its neighbours and claimed some four million lives.
The resolution also called on the DRC government to do its utmost "to ensure that the presidential and parliamentary elections are held in accordance with the timetable of the independent electoral commission".
It is hoped that the DRC elections will mark the end of a volatile political transition in the country that began in 2003 after years of civil war.
Thirty-two candidates, including current DRC President Joseph Kabila, have been provisionally registered to run in the election, the date for which has been repeatedly postponed.
Last month, the EU approved the troop deployment, with officials saying the force would have three key tasks: providing security for international observers, securing Kinshasa airport, and, if required, "stabilising potentially critical situations".
This could involve it being deployed virtually anywhere in the country, apart from in the east where UN forces have a strong base, they noted.
The headquarters of the EU operation will be run by France and will be based in Kinshasa. - Sapa-AFP