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Last Updated: Friday, 30 May, 2003, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
UN agrees on DR Congo force
UN peacekeepers in Bunia
The UN appealed for international help in the region
The United Nations Security Council has unanimously given the go ahead for a French-led international force to restore order in north-east Democratic Republic of Congo.

More than 1,000 peacekeepers will be deployed to the gold-rich Ituri province to halt the ethnic fighting that has left more than 400 dead in recent weeks.

The United Nations had appealed for international help as violence escalated in the Ituri capital Bunia, where local radio stations have begun broadcasting hate messages that threaten civilians.

The vote comes on the day the swearing in of a transitional government in DR Congo was postponed following disagreement by the government and rebels on the composition of a new national army.

Atrocities

The violence between rival ethnic Hema and Lendu militias follows the withdrawal of Ugandan forces from north-east DR Congo at the beginning of May.

A small lightly-armed UN force already in the province has been unable to stop the widespread atrocities that have caused thousands of civilians to flee.

BUNIA CONFLICT
More than 400 dead in May
50,000 killed in recent years
Ethnic rivalries made worse by foreign armies

Under the UN charter, the new troops - who will be in place until September - are authorised to use force to keep control.

France has said it will provide half of the international force, with other soldiers expected to come from both western and African countries.

The UK has pledged to send troops, and the United States said it may provide logistical and financial support for the troops but ruled out contributing soldiers.

The French ambassador to the UN has already said troops could be deployed as soon as next week.

Power sharing

The force will provide much-needed security in the town and airport, protecting civilians and allowing aid agencies to work there safely, said the BBC's Susannah Price at the UN in New York.

She added that one of their first tasks will be to repair the runway in Bunia, to allow troops and equipment to be brought in as quickly as possible.

UN compound in Bunia surrounded by frightened civilians (Credit: Oxfam)
Civilians in the town are petrified

The government, rebel groups and the civilian opposition have agreed to establish a transitional power-sharing administration after almost five years of war.

But its formal inauguration was again delayed on Friday after the largest rebel group, RCD-Goma, accused the government of trying to keep control of the main army posts and military regions for itself.

Atanase Matenda, a spokesman for the body charged with setting up the government, said attempts were under way to resolve the differences.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Mike Sergeant
"The war has already killed about three million people"



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