March 12, 2009 / 8:43 PM / 11 years ago

Many EU troops to join UN Chad peacekeepers

PRAGUE, March 12 (Reuters) - About 2,000 EU soldiers will transfer to a United Nations force when the world body takes over responsibility for peacekeeping in Chad from the European Union this weekend, EU officials said on Thursday.

The European Union deployed 3,300 peacekeepers in eastern Chad and the Central African Republic last February to protect refugees and civilians who fled violence in neighbouring Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region.

A 5,000-strong U.N. military force is due to take over from them on Sunday.

Czech Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova, whose country holds the EU presidency, said after a meeting of EU defence ministers in Prague that many of the soldiers in the EU force (EUFOR) would remain and be "rehatted" into the U.N. force.

An EU military official said about 2,000 EU troops would join the U.N. force. Its mandate will initially run for a year and it will have a maximum of 5,200 military personnel and 300 police.

There has been no sign of the Darfur conflict abating and U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes reported in December that recruitment by Darfur rebel groups in Chad’s camps and increasing banditry in the area were threatening aid supplies.

Holmes said EUFOR had been unable to tackle the problem, remarks that echoed comments in September by the international aid agency Oxfam. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom, editing by Tim Pearce)

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