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Friday, 22 September, 2000, 09:05 GMT 10:05 UK
Sierra Leone peacekeeping crisis
Nigeria troops serving with the UN in Sierra Leone
The Nigerians got on very badly with the Indian troops
The Sierra Leone Government says it is disturbed by India's decision to withdraw its troops from the UN peacekeeping mission in the country.

Indian units make up a quarter of the 12,000-strong UN force and are the best-equipped.

We expect that the UN will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the force has its full complement of troops.

Information Minister Julius Spencer
The force also has an Indian commander, General Vijay Jettley, who recently engaged in a very public row with the largest troop contributor, Nigeria.

Diplomats say Jordan has also been indicating that it does not want its troops to remain in Sierra Leone unless at least one Nato country can be persuaded to play a significant role in the force.

The Sierra Leone government says it is in discussions with the UN to make sure the Indian troops are replaced.

But UN spokesman Fred Eckhardt has admitted that this will not be easy.

UN soldiers in Sierra Leone return from captivity
The UN force, under strength, has suffered several humiliations
He said Sierra Leone was depending absolutely on the United Nations; rebels had overrun the capital in the past and everyone feared they could do so again.

Sierra Leone Information Minister Dr Julius Spencer told BBC's Focus on Africa programme that they would be pleased if a Nato country were to get involved "because it would send, we believe, a very positive moral message to the whole world".

And he said that they had discussed this possibility with the British Government, but refused to give any further details


Indian diplomats are presenting the decision as a routine rotation, following nearly two years of service by their military observers and peacekeepers in Sierra Leone.

General Jetley, UN force commander in Sierra Leone
General Jetley's relations with other contributors were fraught
And says the decision is not connected to criticism of its force commander, Major General Vijay Jetley.

But it is no secret that General Jetley's relations with other troop contributors, most notably Nigeria, have been extremely fraught.

And the timing of the withdrawal could hardly be worse for the UN as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is facing problems finding countries prepared to send extra soldiers to increase the size of the force to 20,500.

The Indian units are expected to leave Sierra Leone in phases, giving the UN time to find replacements.

But problems securing the extra troops has held up a Security Council vote to increase the force by an extra 7,500 soldiers.

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See also:

23 Aug 00 | Americas
UN peacekeeping record
07 Sep 00 | Americas
UN reviews role in Africa
07 Sep 00 | Americas
Africa: UN's 'strategic ghetto'
23 Aug 00 | Americas
UN peacekeeping under review
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