Ahern to seek assurances over Irish troops

 

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern is to seek assurances at the United Nations in New York tomorrow that 350 Irish peacekeeping troops being deployed to Chad will be safe.

Mr Ahern will raise the issue with the foreign minister of Sudan, Lam Akol and will also voice concerns about risks to Irish aid workers in the region. Last week the Cabinet approved the deployment of a reconnaissance force to Chad as part of a UN peacekeeping mission to the country.

The Dail will rubber stamp the move in coming weeks. The soldiers will help authorities in Chad and the Central African Republic to protect refugees fleeing the devastating civil war in Darfur.

Mr Ahern said: "There are currently 200,000 Darfur refugees and 173,000 displaced people living in camps in Chad." The troops will also ensure humanitarian aid gets to where it is needed and aid workers can travel around freely.

Since 2006, Ireland has provided 27 million euro in aid to Sudan and almost 7 million euro to Chad and the Central African Republic. The Government has also contributed five million euro to fund the African Union deployment in Darfur.

Mr Ahern will also insist that the Sudanese Government does everything in its power to facilitate the deployment of the UN/African Union joint mission to Darfur. Mr Ahern, who last visited the region in 2006, hopes to travel there again in November.

A busy agenda at the UN HQ also includes bilaterals with foreign ministers of Moldova, Uganda, Turkey, Indonesia and Iran. The Co Louth TD is also due to hold talks on the Burma situation and other issues with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington on Wednesday.