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BBC correspondent Ron Gerver
"The peacekeeping department is expected to do more and more for less and less"
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Thursday, 15 June, 2000, 08:43 GMT 09:43 UK
Holbrooke criticises UN peacekeeping
UN troops in Sierra Leone
The UN operation in Sierra Leone has been an embarrassment
By Rob Watson in Washington

The United States ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke, has called for a major overhaul of its international peacekeeping operations.

He said the UN's peacekeeping department should be based along military lines if it wanted to avoid any further humiliations when dealing with international crises.

Mr Holbrooke criticised the type of command structure and communications used by the UN, saying no serious military force would ever be sent out with a similar set-up.

The characteristically outspoken US ambassador also said the department needed more money and better trained people, both at its headquarters in New York and out in the field, in an interview with the New York Times.

Mr Holbrooke was only saying in public what many at the UN have been saying in private for years - that the UN's peacekeeping department is not up to the job.

Mr Holbrooke said the department - now down to just 400 New York-based staff - was, as he put it, stretched to the bone.

Sierra Leone

It was running world-wide operations 24 hours a day without sufficient technical expertise.

In a clear reference to the recent humiliation in Sierra Leone, he said no other military force would have been sent into the areas of conflict the UN had gone to using its levels of control and communications structures.

His proposed solution is for the UN to go back to its past practice of accepting military and support staff paid for by member governments, not out of the UN's regular budget.

Such a proposal is likely to encounter tough opposition from Third World countries, who see the scheme as giving the best jobs to staff from Western nations.

Washington reluctance

It could also cause problems in the Republican-dominated US Congress, which is suspicious of anything that would strengthen the UN's military capabilities.

Many of the UN's member states are certain to see Mr Holbrooke's criticism as decidedly hypocritical, given their view that the real problem is underfunding from Washington.

But the proposal has drawn support from UN secretary general Kofi Annan who, as a former head of the UN's peacekeeping department, is well aware of its limitations.

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21 Jan 00 | Americas
US senator berates UN
23 Nov 99 | Asia-Pacific
Holbrooke issues warning on Timor
20 Nov 99 | Americas
Senate passes US budget
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