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. Europe mulls joint military help for Asia crisis
BRUSSELS (AFP) Jan 06, 2005
Belgium has proposed that Europe's five-nation Eurocorps provide military aid to victims of south Asia's tsunami disaster, possibly involving other European states too, officials said Thursday.

Defence Minister Andre Flahaut is seeking support for such action from France, Germany, Luxembourg and Spain, its partners in Europe's fledgling armed force, said a ministry spokesman.

Flahaut "has made contact with his .. counterparts to discuss organizing military support" to help the millions of survivors of December 26 killer waves which have left over 146,000 people dead, he said.

"The plan is to provide military aid at a European level and to find synergies involving transport of people and equipment," added spokesman Gerard Harveng, confirming a report in the Spanish press.

The German defence ministry said it was studying the proposal "on the basis of the availability" of forces, but noted that Eurocorps is heavily engaged in leading the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

"Of course our priority remains fulfilling individual (military) missions, and we had not planned to expand our commitment in the region affected by the catastrophe," said a German defence ministry spokesman.

Eurocorps is made up of detachments from its five member states. Created in 1992 by France and Germany, it was later put at the service of the European Union and is certified as a NATO rapid reaction force.

The Belgian proposal was made at the start of the week, and discussions are ongoing. "Countries are interested. Everyone wants to contribute its stone to the building, and to do so in a coordinated way," he added.

For example one way this could be done would be to integrate Belgian military doctors with a German armed force in Indonesia, he said.

"The aim was to start with countries which are used to working with each other militarily, which does not exclude other participants" from Europe, he said.

The European Union (EU) has long struggled to beef up its joint armed wing, amid persistant resistance from key member states to share control over military forces.

A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said this week that one reason the United States had such a high profile in responding to the Asia crisis was because it had huge military resources available.

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