De Gucht: "Don't withdraw from Congo"

The Belgian European Commissioner Karel De Gucht has said that there is no reason to withdraw any United Nations troops from Congo despite recent criticism. Mr De Gucht is the International Development Commissioner and a former Belgian foreign minister.

Speaking in the European Parliament the Flemish liberal acknowledged that the situation in eastern Congo was now entirely out of hand and conceded that recent criticism was justified.

Mr De Gucht noted that a power vacuum led to a situation in which criminal acts were no longer punished.

Mr De Gucht's predecessor as International Development Commissioner Louis Michel had said that from the out start the means of the UN force, MONUC, should have been strengthened. He noted that even today there was a great shortage of resources needed to cope with the many demands placed on it.

Mr De Gucht warned against throwing money into a bottomless pit. At present over a hundred million euros are spent on the operation in eastern Congo every year.

He added: "It would be the ultimate mistake to ask that the troops would leave the DRC. I mean this would be the direst thing one can imagine."

Euro MPs insisted on greater protection for vulnerable groups including women, but also gave their backing to MONUC's mission.