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Wednesday, 20 September, 2000, 05:00 GMT 06:00 UK
UN fails to rally Sierra Leone force
Jordanian peacekeepers in Sierra Leone
UN is looking for 7,500 additional peacekeepers
By United Nations correspondent Mark Devenport

The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, is experiencing difficulties persuading countries to contribute extra troops to the organisation's peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone.

The problem has held up a Security Council vote to increase the force by an extra 7,500 soldiers.

The Secretary General wants to make sure he has all the troop contributors lined up and that is not yet the case

UN spokesman Fred Eckhard
Last month Mr Annan recommended that the UN's peacekeepers in Sierra Leone should be substantially increased in number.

At present the force is 13,000 strong. The UN Secretary General believes that number should rise to 20,500.

Chequered history

But finding extra troops is proving difficult given the chequered history of the force, which has seen hundreds of soldiers taken hostage by rebels and some units criticised for their inadequate equipment or training.

A number of countries, such as Nigeria and Ghana, are expected to provide additional soldiers but diplomats say some of those already contributing troops, such as Jordan, would like a contingent from at least one Nato country to become involved.

The United States argues that those battalions which have not performed well should be sent home as part of any restructuring.

UN spokesman Fred Eckhard, acknowledged that the debate about the force's composition has held up a vote on authorising more troops.

"The Secretary General wants to make sure he has all the troop contributors lined up and that is not yet the case," Mr Eckhard said.

"It needs a little bit more work and so I think that is the reason for his request to the Security Council to hold off the resolution that would take us to the next step. He wants to make sure he's got all those troops."

Interim measure

With the search for the extra soldiers still under way, the Security Council is poised to pass a holding resolution which will extend the force's mandate at its current strength for the next six weeks.

The Council is also sending a mission to Sierra Leone in early October to review all aspects of the UN's operations there, including:

  • the effectiveness of the peacekeeping force
  • the ban on the sale of conflict diamonds
  • the preparations for a special court to try the rebel leader, Foday Sankoh, and others accused of war crimes.
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See also:

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