Germany reacts coolly to French request on Central Africa

BERLIN Wed Dec 18, 2013 4:50pm GMT

A French military sniper readies his rifle in Bangui December 8, 2013. REUTERS/Herve Serefio

A French military sniper readies his rifle in Bangui December 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Herve Serefio

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany reacted coolly on Wednesday to a French request that European countries step up support for its military mission in Central African Republic, playing down the likelihood of any financial assistance on the eve of an EU summit.

France has deployed 1,6000 troops there to prevent worsening violence between Christian militias and largely Muslim Seleka rebels who ousted ex-President Francois Bozize.

At a meeting of European Union foreign ministers on Monday, it requested more help from allies to bolster its peacekeeping mission beyond logistical and financial aid.

French European Affairs Minister Thierry Repentin said on Wednesday said Germany and Britain were thinking about sending troops, although both countries had denied that on Tuesday.

And a senior German official, speaking on condition of anonymity on Wednesday, said that European rules dictated that countries carrying out military missions paid for them on their own.

Costs could only be shared, he said, for very specific, limited tasks.

"In that sense, I don't see much need for discussion on this," the official said.

French demands for more burden-sharing in Central African Republic are likely to be discussed in talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday evening in Paris.

They will also feature at a two-day summit of EU leaders that begins on Thursday.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Tuesday that other European countries would soon send troops to support the French-African mission to restore order.

While European nations such as Germany, Britain, Poland, Spain and Belgium have provided various forms of assistance, French troops are intervening alone for the second time this year after ousting Islamist rebels in Mali, another former African colony.

Diplomats said European ground troops involved may be used to relieve French forces who secure the airport in the capital Bangui, but that no official decision had been taken.

Support at home for the French intervention has fallen since two French soldiers were killed in a firefight during a patrol in Bangui last week, a poll showed.

(Reporting by Noah Barkin and Andreas Rink; Editing by John Irish and Alison Williams)

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