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The BBC's Helen Wade
"UN forces are still trying to establish order"
 real 28k

Saturday, 20 May, 2000, 01:36 GMT 02:36 UK
UN to boost Sierra Leone force
UN troops
The UN troops in Sierra Leone will number 13,000
The United Nations Security Council has endorsed plans to expand its peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone by an additional 2,000 troops.

The unanimous decision to bring the size of the Unamsil mission to 13,000 soldiers came as India, Bangladesh and Jordan prepared to send in their reinforcements as early as next week.

The move will also benefit from the United States' promise to deliver up to $20m to the UN to help stabilise the situation in Sierra Leone.

Diplomats say Mr Annan wants to see an even larger force
The United Kingdom is to provide further assistance in the form of a training programme for Sierra Leone's own army.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a letter to the Security Council that the recent attacks by the rebels against the UN personnel made it "crucial to accelerate the deployment of military units".

Diplomats said Mr Annan favoured an even larger force, eventually numbering 16,500 soldiers.

The force is already the largest UN peacekeeping mission.

Rebels defiant

More than 300 UN peacekeepers are still missing in the east of the country, and are thought to be held by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

A spokesman for the rebels denied they were holding the UN troops, saying the peacekeepers had fled into the bush.

As a result of the recent attacks by the RUF against Unamsil personnel and the resumption of hostilities, it was deemed crucial to accelerate the deployment of military units

Kofi Annan
The rebels also ignored calls by US presidential envoy Jesse Jackson to release the captives immediately.

Mr Jackson warned the RUF that it would be held accountable for both the seizure of peacekeepers and for killing four UN soldiers.

The RUF spokesman, however, demanded that their leader Foday Sankoh be released from custody in Freetown, where he was captured earlier this week.

He said the rebels would fight rather than negotiate unless Mr Sankoh was released.

Mr Sankoh was captured on Wednesday - a week after he fled his Freetown home when rebels shot and killed 19 people protesting at the capture of UN peacekeepers.

UN's dilemma

The BBC's Mark Doyle in Freetown says the demand for the release of Mr Sankoh will put the UN in a difficult position.

However, the Sierra Leonean Government is in confident mood and is investigating a range of criminal charges that it may bring against the Mr Sankoh.

The rebels will "fight rather than negotiate" unless Mr Sankoh is released
According to legal sources in the country, criminal charges are being prepared, including Mr Sankoh's alleged involvement in the shooting dead of pro-government demonstrators to his involvement in illegal diamond smuggling.

Mr Sankoh is now believed to be detained by the Sierra Leone police.

Senior members of the UN peacekeeping force say they would like access to Mr Sankoh to try to persuade him to release the UN hostages unconditionally.

But according to our correspondent, the UN force, ill-equipped and humiliated by the rebels, has been sidelined by events.

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See also:

12 May 00 | Africa
Foday Sankoh: Rebel leader
19 May 00 | Africa
Rebels accuse Britain
17 May 00 | Africa
What now for Sankoh?
17 May 00 | Africa
UN peacekeepers fly to safety
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