NATO agrees to airlift troops to Darfur

June 10, 2005 at 8:03 AM
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BRUSSELS, June 10 (UPI) -- NATO defense ministers Friday wrapped up a two-day meeting in Brussels with a deal to airlift troops to the Darfur region of Sudan.

After weeks of haggling about whether the EU or NATO should help transport African troops to the conflict zone, ministers agreed that both should provide assistance.

"The people in Darfur need help and the African Union is providing the help," said Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. "NATO and the EU are doing everything we can to answer the request by the African Union."

Both Brussels-based organizations will be under the command of the African Union and will not send European or American troops to the region, where the United Nations estimates 2.6 million people urgently need assistance.

Ministers also expressed concern at falling defense budgets in several countries after statistics showed expenditures slipping below 2 percent in Italy, Norway and the Czech Republic. "Defense spending is not up to standard in this alliance," said De Hoop Scheffer.

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