Page last updated at 16:27 GMT, Wednesday, 30 July 2008 17:27 UK

UN forces 'stretched to limits'

UN-AU peacekeepers in Darfur
The UN risks failure in Darfur, says the outgoing head of UN peacekeeping

United Nations peacekeepers are stretched to their limit, the outgoing head of UN peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guehenno, has warned.

Mr Guehenno, who held the post for eight years, told the BBC there was a danger UN troops could be misused.

"The international community... faced with a tragedy, wants to do something," says Mr Guehenno. "To deploy blue helmets can look like the easy answer."

Mr Guehenno also said that peacekeepers now in Darfur were under-resourced.

Mr Guehenno said that using UN peacekeepers in the wrong circumstances risked failure.

"The blue helmets, they are there to support the process, the supposed political agreement," he told the BBC. "If there is no political agreement there is a real risk that the force will not make a difference."

'Very strong force'

The United Nations currently has more than 9,000 troops and police in the Darfur region of Sudan, in a joint UN-African Union force - with a total of 26,000 authorised to be deployed.

African aid agencies say the force is failing civilians in the region, and Mr Guehenno believes the force deployed there does not have the resources to do its job.

Total UN personnel deployed worldwide: 109,662, including:
DRC: 22,067 personnel
Liberia: 14,618
South Sudan: 13,316
Lebanon: 13,309
Haiti: 10,927
Darfur: 10,898
Ivory Coast: 10,452
Source: UN

"Even if it had all the resources planned, in the absence of a solid political process, it would not be in a position to do the job," he said.

"I am enormously worried because I think that the risk there is that if we do not succeed in Darfur, that will reverberate throughout peacekeeping."

As well as its commitments in Darfur and elsewhere, the UN is under pressure to send peacekeepers to Somalia, where Islamist fighters are battling with Ethiopian forces.

The BBC's UN correspondent, Laura Trevelyan, says if peacekeepers were to be deployed, they would be going into a situation where there is no peace to keep.

Mr Guehenno is clear about the risks of sending peacekeepers to Somalia.

"If you want to deploy a force in an environment like that - unless you are prepared to suffer a lot of casualties - you need a very well-equipped force, a very strong force," he says.

"The danger is humiliation, is casualties, is that if you send a force and you don't make a real difference, then people will really turn away from Somalia, and that would be a real tragedy," he adds.

UN pulls back staff from Darfur
14 Jul 08 |  Africa
Sudan condemns UN Darfur attack
10 Jul 08 |  Africa
Peacekeepers 'abusing children'
27 May 08 |  Special Reports

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