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Nigeria ready to deploy more troops under AU auspices

5/9/2005 6:23am

KANO, Nigeria, May 9 (AFP) -- Nigeria has expressed its readiness to deploy troops to Somalia and send more to Sudan's Darfur region if the African Union (AU) expands its peace-keeping operations in the troubled areas.
Defence Minister Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso told reporters at the weekend in the northern city of Kano that Nigeria had the capacity to send troops to any part of Africa on peace missions and would not hesitate to respond to the AUs requests.

"Once a decision is taken on sending troops to Somalia and increasing the number of troops to Darfur, Nigeria will waste no time in taking the lead because apart from the moral obligation of being our brothers keepers, we also feel the effects of the instability in those areas especially the refugee crisis," the minister said.

Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi on Saturday ruled out relocating his government currently exiled in Kenya to his anarchic country until regional peacekeepers are deployed in Mogadishu to help restore stability.

In March, the seven-nation east African Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) said the first deployment of two battalions of soldiers from Sudan and Uganda could be on the ground by the end of April but they have yuet to arrive.

IGAD -- which comprises Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and nominally Somalia -- is expected to eventually deploy as many as 10,000 troops.

The African Union, which Nigeria currently heads, agreed last month to increase the size of its Darfur mission from some 3,320 to be deployed by the end of May, to 7,731 by the end of September.

The Darfur conflict, which pits rebels against pro-government militia, has resulted in between 180,000 and 300,000 deaths and the displacement of some two million people.

"We live in a global village where distance no longer matters and Somalia and Darfur are just in our backyard, if they catch fire we are in trouble because their problems will have ripple effect on us," Kwankwaso said.

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