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France to Send Force to Congo To Try to Quell Surge of Violence

France said today it would begin deploying a French-led multinational force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo next week to halt a surge in ethnic violence that has left at least hundreds dead and driven tens of thousands from their homes. The French commitment to lead a force of more than 1,000 international troops came weeks after U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan appealed to French President Jacques Chirac to intervene in the Ituri province of Congo to stop a bloody power struggle between the ethnic Hemma and Lendu militia. It coincided with a report by a senior U.N. humanitarian official who described scenes of atrocities and mounting chaos during a recent visit to Bunia, the capital of Ituri. “The situation in Ituri is critical,” France’s U.N. ambassador, Jean Marc de La Sabliere, told reporters after briefing the 15-nation Security Council on his government’s plans. “We have been asked to lead a multinational force in Ituri, and France has accepted to lead such a force.” Full Story

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