More peacekeepers won't bring peace to Congo - UN

Tue Nov 18, 2008 4:48pm EST
 
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(Adds comments on talks between rebels and government forces)

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 18 (Reuters) - More U.N. peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo could help stabilize the east of the country, which has been ravaged by renewed fighting, but will not bring peace to the region, the top U.N. official in Congo said on Tuesday.

"Reinforcements are not going to resolve all the problems," Alan Doss, head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, told reporters via video link from Kinshasa.

"Reinforcements will allow us to do something about the situation, which has deteriorated fast, help us to stabilize the situation a bit, and allow the political and diplomatic process to go forward."

France has drafted a Security Council resolution granting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's request for 3,000 additional troops and police for the peacekeeping mission in Congo to help contain a humanitarian disaster caused by the fighting.

The 15-nation council could vote as early as Wednesday on the resolution, which would temporarily raise the limit for the U.N.'s biggest peacekeeping mission to over 20,000, and diplomats said it was likely to be approved.

Although the increase in U.N. peacekeepers will not end the conflict, Doss said it would improve his ability to protect civilians and increase flexibility in deploying troops across eastern Congo, a region roughly the size of France.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy has said it could take months to get additional peacekeepers into Congo but Doss said he wanted to accelerate the process.

SPECIAL ENVOY'S EFFORTS

Congolese rebels loyal to renegade Gen. Laurent Nkunda announced a military pullback to support efforts by a special U.N. envoy, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, to end the fighting between the rebels and Congolese government forces.

"I hope this new proposal ... together with proposals for a verification mechanism for the ceasefire will go forward," Doss said.

Congolese President Joseph Kabila has rejected several requests from Nkunda for direct talks, but Doss said U.N. peacekeepers were trying to arrange talks between the rebels and the Congolese military over the next few days to expand the ceasefire and improve humanitarian access to refugees.

The talks would be mediated by the peacekeeping force, known by its French acronym MONUC, and could be a first step toward restoring dialogue between the government and the rebels, he said.

Doss noted that the humanitarian situation was improving though it was still dire.

In addition to Nkunda, Obasanjo also met Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame over the weekend to try to stop the conflict from escalating into a repeat of a 1998-2003 war in Congo, in which millions of people died. (Editing by Chris Wilson)




 
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