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General News | Jun 19, 2004

West African Nations to Create Military

Associated Press

ABUJA, Nigeria -- West African defense chiefs agreed Friday to create a 6,500-strong multinational force to respond to "crisis and threats to peace" in the war-ravaged region.

The core of the force will be 1,500 "highly trained and equipped" rapid response troops and 3,500 backups. The remaining 1,500 soldiers will form a reserve, the Economic Community of West African States said in a statement.

Regional officials will assess capabilities and recruit troops to be on standby in their home bases, ECOWAS said.

The new force "could be deployed immediately in response to crisis or threat to peace and security in the region," ECOWAS said.

However, it was unclear when the force will come into being.

Logistics depots will be created in Mali and Sierra Leone, rebuilding after a devastating 1990s civil war.

The announcement follows a two-day meeting in the Nigerian capital involving defense chiefs of staff from 15 member nations of ECOWAS.

Officials sought the standing force to avoid delays experienced in deployment of ECOWAS and U.N. intervention troops in wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast.

Earlier this year, a new peacekeeper training center was inaugurated in Accra, Ghana, to offer programs to regional forces.

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