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UN mulls emergency force to northeastern Congo

Security Council mulls sending emergency force to northeastern DR of Congo

In strong support of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's call for "decisive action," the Security Council is expected to take action on a draft resolution - possibly as early as Friday - to deploy an emergency force to help stabilize the volatile situation in the town of Bunia, in the north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

In a statement to the press following consultations on the war-ravaged country, the Council's President, Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, said a draft resolution had been circulated on the authorization of a multinational force to be deployed in Bunia, where a fierce inter-ethnic power struggle has been raging for weeks.

"There was unanimous support in the Council for the Secretary-General's proposal to deploy such a force," Ambassador Akram said, adding that the draft resolution would be adopted as soon as all the conditions are fulfilled.

The Council President said members of the 15-nation body also condemned the recent violence and atrocities committed in the DRC, especially the brutal murders of two military observers from Jordan and Malawi who were part of the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC), as well as the looting of humanitarian and medical equipment.

"Council members called for full cooperation and restraint by all parties and urged them, including neighbouring States, to refrain from arming the belligerents," he said. They also expressed their gratitude to MONUC and especially the Uruguayan contingent stationed in Bunia.

Fielding questions from the press, Ambassador Akram said that following the morning's consultations on the DRC, the prevailing sentiment among the Council members had been "the sooner we act the better."

"I think that nobody can blot out of their minds the past atrocities that have taken place in the DRC," he said, "and obviously no one in or out of the Council would wish that sort of thing to happen again."

Under the draft resolution that had been circulated, the mandate of the proposed force would chiefly be to restore and preserve peace in the troubled region, Ambassador Akram said, stressing that he believed that mandate would be "robust enough" and the force would be equipped for that purpose. He expected the Council to act quickly, possibly as early as Friday.

"Our only concern, of course, regards financing and logistical support, and we are awaiting confirmation on that," he said. Responding to another question, Ambassador Akram said that while there had been no specific discussion of the size and make-up of the proposed force, he expected the Council would firm up those issues, too, by the time the resolution was adopted.

Speaking to the press earlier Wednesday was Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sablière of France, which has agreed to lead the multinational force. Characterizing the conditions in Bunia and throughout the DRC's northeastern Ituri province as " an emergency situation," he said that France's agreement to head the force had been predicated upon several conditions, chiefly that the Council authorize such a force under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and spell out its mandate precisely.

also give a very precise mandate to the force, he said. "The mandate should be to stabilize and maintain the security and humanitarian situation in Bunia and to protect the airport and refugee camps there, and if necessary the population in the immediate vicinity," Ambassador de La Sablière said. The multinational force will be deployed until 1 September, pending the arrival of a MONUC force comprised of peace-keepers form Bangladesh."

Another condition had been that the Council insist on the support of countries in the Great Lakes region - not only the DRC Government, which had requested that a force be sent, but also Uganda and Rwanda, Ambassador de La Sablière said. The Council had received word that the Secretary-General had received letters from the respective leaders of those two countries expressing their support. "I am confident now that in the coming days - I hope by Friday - we will be able to reach final agreement in the Council and adopt the resolution," he added.


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