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Monday, 16 December, 2002, 17:29 GMT
EU peace force gets go-ahead
S-for soldiers
The EU force could replace S-For as early as next year
Nato and the European Union have formally adopted an agreement which will give the EU access to Nato military resources and will allow the EU to conduct military operations abroad.

Under the deal, the EU will have access to Nato planning and resources for its emerging Rapid Reaction Force.

The force is planned to have up to 60,000 soldiers, who will be deployable at short notice for peacekeeping operations.

British soldiers from the 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment
EU aims to be able to deploy its troops within 60 days
The move will allow the EU to take over the current Nato-led operations in the Balkans - first in Macedonia, then in Bosnia-Hercegovina - as the United States seeks to disengage its troops from the region.

The agreement, which had long been sought, was finalised after a long dispute between Turkey and Greece about links between the two organisations was resolved at last week's EU summit in Copenhagen.

Turkey - a member of Nato, but not of the EU - received assurances that the new force would not intervene in any crisis related to Cyprus.

In a concession to Ankara, the EU leaders agreed that Cyprus - which is due to join the EU in 2004 - would not take part in any EU military operation that uses Nato assets.

The force should be able to remain in the field for up to a year for a range of tasks, including humanitarian missions and armed peacekeeping.

This agreement between the EU and Nato will finally give European defence policy some of the credibility it was badly lacking, says BBC Brussels correspondent Chris Morris.

See also:

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