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David Wimhurst, UN Spokesperson
"UN peacekeepers refused to give in to these requests"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 08:47 GMT 09:47 UK
UN condemns Sierra Leone rebels
Kenyan UN soldiers in Sierra Leone
UN troops are trying to enforce a peace agreement
The United Nations Security Council has condemned the abduction of almost 50 UN peacekeepers and civilian personnel in Sierra Leone by rebel forces.

The Security Council denounced what it called the hostile and destructive actions of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), and demanded that its leader, Foday Sankoh, should instruct his forces to stop the attacks.

UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, said the seizures of mainly Kenyan and Indian personnel were "outrageous and criminal".

We have the military option ... but I am appealing to the combatants not to push us into a corner

General Vijay Kumar Jetley, UN Commander
A peace agreement signed last year requires the rebels to disarm under the supervision of a UN-led force.

Mr Annan said RUF fighters had "physically obstructed" the process of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of combatants.

He called on Mr Sankoh to end the abductions and co-operate "in good faith" in implementing the July 1999 agreement intended to end the eight-year civil war in Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone map
Foday Sankoh joined the government last year as part of the peace settlement.

Mr Annan is currently in Cameroon on a tour of West Africa and not due to return to New York until Thursday.

'Desperate people'

The commander of the UN force, General Vijay Kumar Jetley, told a news conference that negotiations had begun to get the men released.

"We have the military option as we are a trained force," General Jetley said. "But that is the last resort.

"We are not in Sierra Leone to fight but I am appealing to the combatants not to continuously push us into a corner," he added.

The UN is trying to disarm thousands of rebel fighters, but when 10 of them came forward to surrender their arms at Makeni, their comrades objected, calling them deserters.

Around 100 armed men surrounded the demobilisation base, abducting 16 peacekeepers and military observers.

At Kailahun, the crew and passengers of a UN helicopter were seized.

In a third incident, at Magburaka, two peacekeepers were wounded in an exchange of fire with rebels.

"We're dealing with desperate people here," said Sierra Leone's ambassador to the UN, Ibrahim Kamara.

Disarmament slow

The kidnappings coincide with the final departure of the Nigerian-led West African peace-keeping force, which reinstated the country's President, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah in 1998.

The agreement signed in Lome last year required the rebels to disarm under the supervision of a UN-led force but there have been several confrontations between UN troops and rebels.

The rebels, known for their extreme brutality during the country's civil war, have been slow to disarm and still control areas in the north and the east of the former British colony.

An estimated 15,000 RUF gunmen still control the rebel heartland, which stretches across to the fabulously wealthy diamond areas in the east of Sierra Leone.

Facing them is the UN Mission in Sierra Leone, which comprises some 8,000 troops in a force which is planned eventually to number 11,100.

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10 Apr 00 | Africa
UN attacked in Sierra Leone
14 Mar 00 | Africa
Sierra Leone rebels thwart UN
01 May 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Farewell to the general
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