"Finland is giving a negative response to an enquiry from the United Nations on the possible participation of Finnish forces in an extensive UN peacekeeping operation in the Darfur region of Sudan. Civil servant sources also told Helsingin Sanomat on Monday that Finland is considering the possibility of taking part in crisis management in neighbouring Chad as part of a European Union battle group under Swedish command."
"There has been serious discussion on the possible deployment of Finnish and other Nordic forces in other parts of Africa, including neighbouring Chad. The EU foreign ministers decided on July 23rd to begin planning for a crisis management operation for Chad involving 3,000 soldiers. This would be the largest EU input into military crisis management. Helsingin Sanomat has learned that France was asking Sweden in early July about the possibility to use resources of the Nordic battle group in Chad in EU operations led by France."
"The total strength of the Nordic Battle Group (NBG) is 2,434 soldiers, of whom 221 are Finns. The countries in the battle group - Sweden, Finland, Norway, Estonia, and Ireland - have discussed the matter, but no decision have been made, say civil servants."
There are contradictory reports on the willingness of the Nordic Countries to join the operation. According to sources in Stockholm, the countries are hesitant, and have more or less buried the idea. An alternative would be a separate Swedish-Norwegian unit of engineers, says one informed source. According to Finnish sources, decisions on a Chad operation can be expected when the European summer holiday ends in September. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt did not want to comment on the situation on Monday. In July, Bildt welcomed the EU decision on sending forces to Chad, but would not say if Sweden would participate.
Sweden is under great pressure to find a deployment linked with Darfur during the six months that it is in charge of the NBG, says Lieutenant-Colonel Mika Kerttunen of the Finnish National Defence College. However, the decision is not exclusively Sweden's. The missions of the battle groups are to be decided by the EU member states together."
Foto: Diana Janse. Carl Bildt i Tchad.