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Last Updated: Friday, 11 January 2008, 14:39 GMT
Military approves EU Chad mission
A child outside a French military camp in southern Chad
The mission to Chad has faced a number of delays
Military officials have approved a European peacekeeping force in Chad and the Central African Republic.

The contingent will have the task of protecting refugees from Darfur and people displaced by internal fighting.

EU ministers will still have to rubber-stamp the 3,500-strong force in time for a launch in early February.

Diplomats said that a shortfall of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft had been solved by further contributions from France, Belgium and Poland.

Repeated delays

The mission has been delayed several times since November 2007, but a French government spokesman said on Thursday that President Nicolas Sarkozy had authorised additional resources to help "unblock" the situation.

The Italian government has also offered to provide a hospital.

Chiefs of staff and EU ambassadors will consider the plans which are then likely to go before an EU Council of Ministers meeting at the end of January.

Friday's military meeting in Brussels was chaired by Irish commander Lieutenant General Pat Nash who is due to run the operation from its headquarters near Paris.

Four sectors

The force which has a UN Security Council mandate is known as Eufor Chad/CAR and is expected to be deployed in four areas, three in Chad and one in the Central African Republic.

Map of Chad, Darfur and CAR

More than 200,000 refugees from Darfur are in camps in the region, along with 178,000 displaced Chadians and 43,000 Central Africans.

A French brigadier general will take charge on the ground.

France has promised to deploy at least 1,350 troops and the Irish Defence Forces are to send a further 450.

French troops are already stationed in eastern Chad and 50 elite soldiers from the Irish Army Ranger Wing are said to be ready to begin long-range patrols.

Further contributions are to come from Austria, Greece, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain and Sweden.

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