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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 March 2006, 22:43 GMT
UN backs June vote for DR Congo
By Nick Miles
BBC correspondent in Goma, DR Congo

UN soldier in DR Congo
The UN force in DR Congo is the biggest in the world
The head of UN peacekeeping operations says security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is stable enough to allow elections in June.

Jean-Marie Guehenno said while there were numerous armed groups still operating in the area, progress was being made to disarm them.

Mr Guehenno has been travelling around the country for more than a week.

He has been assessing the progress of the 17,000 UN peacekeepers - the largest UN force in the world.

Their strategy has been one of military operations combined with attempts to convince militia groups and renegade soldiers from the army to put down their weapons.

'Complex and dangerous'

There are still tens of thousands of members of various militia groups, mainly in the eastern part of the country.

Many were formed 10 years ago in the months leading up to the overthrow of President Mobutu. Some are Congolese, others from Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

It is a complex and dangerous situation. But Mr Guehenno said he is hopeful for the June election.

"I think that if things are managed carefully at a political level, the country could have credible elections," he said in the eastern town of Goma.

"It's important to have speedy elections, but they've also got to be free and fair because if there are doubts about them, that could leave this country in an even more precarious situation than it is at the moment."

Mr Guehenno said the UN force in the country was committed to staying after the June elections until such time that the security situation in the DRC has improved.

The elections are an important step on the road to recovery, he said, but not the end of the story.


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