BRUSSELS (AFP) — European foreign ministers expressed concern on Monday about new fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo but said it was too early for the bloc to send troops to help.
"Sadly the situation is in decline," said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency until the end of the year.
"The humanitarian situation is more than disastrous, difficult to accept," he said, as he arrived to chair talks with his EU counterparts. "Will the UN forces be able to deal with it? I don't know."
The meeting in Brussels came after fighting between rebels and pro-government forces opened up on new front Sunday in the eastern DR Congo, as southern African nations said they were ready to send in peacekeepers.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said it was too early to send troops.
"We should wait for the assessment by the UN investigator ... and then it will be for every country of the world to consider its own position," he told reporters.
German Defence Minister Franz Joseph Jung said the idea that the EU might send peacekeepers was "out of the question for the moment".
The clashes on the borders of neighbouring Nord-Kivu and Sud-Kivu provinces started before dawn on Sunday and prompted thousands of people to flee, the United Nations said.
The fighting that erupted in August with rebels led by renegade Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda, in violation of a January ceasefire, had previously been limited to Nord-Kivu.
The fighting in eastern Congo has created a humanitarian catastrophe, with at least 250,000 people forced to flee their homes over the past month. The continuing violence has hampered efforts to deliver aid to them.
Fears of a cholera epidemic have added to the population's misery after 80 new cases of the disease were reported in the government-controlled area north of the Nord-Kivu capital of Goma.
The United Nations has some 17,000 peacekeepers in DRC, but they have come under criticism for failing to do enough to stop the violence.
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