UN reviews mandate on peacekeeping
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The United Nations Security Council has reviewed its mandate for the DR Congo in the face of a rapidly deteriorating situation. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly urged the council to reinforce the UN force operating in the region.
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The U.N. Security Council reviewed its peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday while weighing calls for more troops to avert a war in the country's east.
This month's council president, Costa Rican ambassador Jorge Urbina, said the 15-nation council was taking a close look at the U.N. peacekeeping mission known by its French acronym MONUC, which has been preparing for possible clashes with rebels near the city of Goma in eastern Congo.
"We have been asked to review the mandate," said Urbina before the closed-door meeting. "I don't know if we are going to change it or not. We will be exchanging views on that."
U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy, who just returned from central Africa, was to brief the council on his request for 3,000 new troops and police to reinforce the 17,000-strong MONUC, the largest U.N. force in the world.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly urged the council to send the reinforcements to help MONUC deal with the a humanitarian disaster.
But the council remains divided. Several Western diplomats have said better deployment of MONUC in areas where militias are concentrated rather than more troops are needed.
Weeks of violence have forced more than 250,000 people to flee their homes or ramshackle camps where they had taken shelter, bringing the number of internal refugees from years of fighting above 1 million.
Ban told reporters over 100,000 refugees were desperate and virtually cut off from aid.
South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said the council should clarify how far U.N. peacekeepers are allowed to go to protect civilians in keeping with their legal mandate, which he said should be strengthened.
"We have a problem now, because we have MONUC on the ground with all the intentions to protect civilians, but it's not working out well," he told reporters. "We have 200,000 people left to fend for their lives in eastern Congo."
Fighting between Tutsi rebels and pro-government troops and militias has subsided into sporadic clashes in recent days as African leaders pressed both sides to avoid a regional war.
The Security Council approved the mandate in a 2000 resolution which gave MONUC the right to use force to protect civilians and peacekeepers.
U.N. officials say this authorizes them to shoot to kill if attacked, but diplomats say MONUC troops are reluctant to use this authority in practice.
Anneke Van Woudenberg of Human Rights Watch urged the council "to move fast to increase the number of peacekeepers and save lives."
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