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Tuesday, September 28, 1999 Published at 01:15 GMT 02:15 UK

World: Africa

UN force for Sierra Leone

There are an estimated 45,000 rebels in the country

By United Nations Correspondent Mark Devenport

Sierra Leone
The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has recommended the creation of a 6,000-strong UN peacekeeping force for Sierra Leone.

He said it was necessary to provide security and to make possible the disarmament and reintegration into society of an estimated 45,000 guerrilla fighters.

Mr Annan set out his proposals in a report to the UN Security Council. He said the force should comprise six infantry battalions and a number of support units, including a helicopter-borne rapid reaction force.

The force's task would be to police the agreement reached in July between the government of President Kabbah and rebel groups.

The country's bloody civil war has seen some of the worst human rights abuses anywhere in the world.

Ecomog troops

Mr Annan said many of the troops for the new force should come from countries already contributing to the West African Ecomog force, which intervened on the side of the Sierra Leone Government.

Nigeria, which provided the majority of the 12,000-strong Ecomog force, says it intends to withdraw many of its soldiers from next month.

Mr Annan recommended that the UN peacekeeping force should be deployed as soon as possible.

The recommendation isn't likely to meet any opposition on the Security Council provided the current ceasefire in Sierra Leone holds.

The secretary-general argued that the people of Sierra Leone required significant international assistance to recover from their long conflict.

But Mr Annan also acknowledged that the delay in the implementation of the peace accord was causing considerable concern.

He appealed for rebel leaders Foday Sankoh and Johnny Paul Koroma to return to Sierra Leone without delay in order to take part in the peace process.

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