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Saturday, 26 August, 2000, 00:23 GMT 01:23 UK
Annan pushes for more troops
UN in Sierra Leone
The UN wants to extend its presence in Sierra Leone
By Mark Devenport in New York

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for a substantial increase in the UN peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone.

He wants some 20,000 troops, instead of the current 13,000, to extend the UN's presence across the country.


Foremost in my mind is the plight of the people of Sierra Leone and the obvious harmful effects of the continuation of the RUF's hold over large parts of the country

Kofi Annan
Mr Annan has told the Security Council that the threat from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels should not be underestimated.

He said a robust military presence by the international community remained essential for the foreseeable future.

Over the past few weeks, UN peacekeepers have been wounded in clashes with rebels and in May about 500 of them were captured, but eventually released.

Two phases

Mr Annan says the new resources will be necessary to enable the peacekeepers to gradually extend their presence across Sierra Leone.

Annan's requirements
20,500 troops, up from 13,000
18 battalions
Two phases of deployment: consolidation and extending area of control
Specialist equipment such as night-vision goggles and laser sights
Earlier this week, two Nigerian peacekeepers were wounded during a four-hour attack by rebels in Sierra Leone.

Mr Annan envisages two phases for the peacekeepers' future deployment: first, consolidating their current positions, then gradually moving eastwards across the country.

To carry out these tasks, Mr Annan believes the force will need 20,500 military personnel, including a total of some 18 battalions.

He says some UN soldiers should be issued with specialist equipment such as night-vision goggles and laser sights.

Diamond areas

The Secretary-General says that eventually the peacekeepers may be required to deploy to the crucial diamond mining areas which are now in rebel hands.

He estimates that would take at least six additional infantry battalions - but points out that most troop contributors have made it clear that their soldiers should not be expected to take part in a peace-enforcement operation.

Mr Annan says that, ideally, the UN's extension of its presence across Sierra Leone should be preceded by the development of the Sierra Leonean government's own authority in areas it does not currently control.

See also:

22 Aug 00 | Africa
25 Aug 00 | Africa
21 Aug 00 | Africa
01 Jun 00 | Africa
23 Aug 00 | Americas
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