Saturday, October 23, 1999 Published at 05:02 GMT 06:02 UK
UN approves Sierra Leone force
Some Nigerian troops may stay under UN command
The UN Security Council has agreed to send a force of 6,000 peacekeepers to Sierra Leone to help enforce a peace agreement aimed at ending eight years of civil war.
The Council voted unanimously to back a resolution calling for a multinational force to be sent to Sierra Leone with a mandate to disarm and demobilise an estimated 45,000 ex-combatants.
The head of peacekeeping operations said the force should be deployed in "30 to 60 days."
A peace agreement ending the war was signed on 7 July in the Togolese capital Lome between President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and their allies, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC).
The UN peacekeepers are to be deployed at key locations across the country to protect convoys supplying aid to the hungry and assist in the organisation of new elections.
The BBC West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle says the new UN force is a major development in Africa because following the failure of UN missions to stop bloodshed in countries such as Rwanda, most states have been reluctant to commit peacekeepers to the continent.
He says it is vital that the composition of the force is resolved quickly because the situation on the ground remains very tense.
Diplomats close to the planning of the new UN force said troop offers from India and Kenya were already being considered.
Nigeria currently has a military force of some 10,000 in Sierra Leone which has been backing the government's side in the war.
The Nigerian Government has announced that this force is to be withdrawn, but United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said he would like the Nigerians to stay on, some under UN command.
Meanwhile, the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, has highlighted the suffering of Sierra Leone's children
In a keynote address to the UN Security Council he said that the children of Sierra Leone had suffered beyond belief in this war.
The Sierra Leonean ambassador to the UN, Ibrahim Kamara, welcomed the approval of the peacekeeping force, saying it would bring some relief to his people.