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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 May 2007, 17:56 GMT 18:56 UK
UN probing DRC smuggling claims
Congolese police walk past a United Nations position 15 March 2007 in Kinshasa
Pakistan is the biggest contributor to the UN peacekeeping effort
The UN says it will seek to discipline anyone who has compromised peacekeeping in the Democratic Republic of Congo by trafficking in gold or guns.

The vow came after the BBC found that an inquiry into claims that Pakistani UN troops were smuggling may have been blocked for political reasons.

The UN said it could not comment on an ongoing investigation, but would recommend action once it was complete.

Pakistan has said the relevant authorities would look into the matter.

But a spokesman for the Pakistani army, Maj-Gen Wahid Arshad, would not say whether his force planned its own investigation.

"Troops from other countries had also been deployed in Congo. Why is it that we have been singled out by the BBC?" he said.

"Let the UN probe it, if it wants, and as far as we know, the UN has not said anything against us."

Gold trading

The BBC's Martin Plaut has found that the UN began an internal investigation in early 2006 into allegations that Pakistani peacekeeping troops had traded in gold and sold weapons to Congolese militia groups they were meant to disarm.

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I was there in the shop. I saw it with my own eyes
Miners' association head Liki Likambo

The Pakistani battalion at the centre of the claims was based in and around the mining town of Mongbwalu, in the north-east of the country, two years ago.

They helped bring peace to an area that had previously seen bitter fighting between the Lendu and Hema ethnic groups.

But witnesses said Pakistani officers had also supplied weapons to notorious militia commanders in return for gold.

As the trade developed, the officers brought in the Congolese army and then Indian traders from Kenya.

When the UN was eventually alerted to the allegations by Human Rights Watch in late 2005, it instituted a major investigation by the Office for Internal Oversight Services.

However, a UN official connected with the inquiry told the BBC there seemed to have been a plan to bury its results, in order to avoid alienating Pakistan - the largest contributor of troops to the UN.

Ongoing inquiry

Following the BBC's investigation, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) issued a statement saying no action had been taken because the inquiry was still active.

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Once it was completed, the statement said, the findings would be sent to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations "for appropriate action with the Troops Contributing Countries of the concerned contingent personnel, in line with current UN procedures".

Despite the ongoing investigation, MONUC said it had "an absolute zero-tolerance policy on misconduct and will remain vigilant in preventing egregious and unacceptable behaviour".

"MONUC is determined to relentlessly pursue the disciplining of anyone whose conduct is substantiated as unbecoming a peacekeeper," it said.


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