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French force arrives in Bunia

By From CNN Correspondent Catherine Bond

The French troops are authorized to take action against
The French troops are authorized to take action against "aggressive" armed groups.

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BUNIA, Democratic Republic of Congo (CNN) -- A French-led force began arriving in Bunia Tuesday to bolster a United Nations peacekeeping contingent that has been unable to prevent tribal fighting in and around the Democratic Republic of Congo town.

"We are here to reinforce MONUC (the U.N. peacekeeping force) until the reinforcements of U.N. troops arrive in August," said Col. Jerard Dubois, spokesman for the French-led forces.

The French-led troops are authorized to take pre-emptive actions against any armed group it determines has intentions to be aggressive, Col. Dubois told journalists at the airport in Bunia. This contingent, however, will be confined to the town of Bunia and its suburbs, he said.

Gen. Jean Paul Thonier, the commander of the force, will decide exactly what their geographical limits will be, Col. Dubois said.

"Outside of Bunia, the force has no mandate and no means to secure the country," Col. Dubois said.

Many of the humanitarian agencies operating in Bunia believe something has to be done to stop sporadic fighting and killings in the district surrounding Bunia as a whole.

There is concern in Bunia that since the French-led force does not have the mandate to get between the ethnic militias or disarm them, it won't necessarily intervene in clashes like those that took place in the city of Bunia on Saturday.

Major Chris Pullis, a British officer attached to the French forces, said each security incident will be judged individually.

Troops from other nations are expected to join the French-led contingent, Major Pullis said.


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